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Memorial Day may be the unofficial kickoff to summer, but it marks the official opening of many attractions at New Hampshire's mountain resorts, from aerial courses and biking to fishing and more. Thanks to SkiNH for this info.
On weekends beginning May 28, guests can take a canopy tour or trail ride, conquer the slopeside climbing wall and try their luck at fly-fishing at the Omni Mount Washington Resort at Bretton Woods. They are offering spring canopy tour specials through June 30 and fly fishing clinics beginning May 30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9-11 AM. The Adventure Center and additional attractions, including the Go Kart Park, Ranger® Mountain Tours and mountain biking, open with daily hours on June 18. For more information, visit www.brettonwoods.com.
Great Glen Outdoor Center in Gorham (photo on left) has its Spring Trail Run/Walk Series weekly program starting on May 12. It will be open daily for biking, running, walking on its trail system with magnificent views of Mt. Washington. There will be biking on carriage roads or single track, rentals including child sized bikes, mountain bike instructional offerings and the pump track. Flatwater or whitewater kayaking is also available. Don't miss the Great Glen Outfitter Shop for outdoor gear and the Glen View Café. And don't miss the Toll Road where you can drive to the top of Mt. Washington.
Also in the shadow of Mt. Washington is the Franconia Inn for lodging and gourmet dinner. Don't miss the Celebration of Lupines in June with many events on Jun 6-7. Check out Lupine Map & Events for info about the brilliant spikes of lupine flowers carpeting local fields and pastures w/ mountain scenery in and around Franconia & Sugar Hill, NH.
Mount Sunapee Resort opens their Adventure Park on May 28 with guided canopy zip line tours, aerial challenge course, climbing wall, disc golf, miniature golf and chairlift rides. New this year, guests of all abilities can also experience Mount Sunapee's trails via mountain bike through their Evolution Bike Park. On May 29, the resort is holding a Vibram Birdie Bash with a day of disc golf for beginner through tournament players, complete with prizes. Pre-registration is required. For more lodging and meals in the Sunapee region check Dexter's Inn.
The Adventure Center at Waterville Valley Resort opens on May 16 with mountain biking, hiking, and skateboarding. The golf course is set to open on May 21 and Snow's Mountain chairlift rides will be available on weekends from May 28 through June 24 Waterville Valley is celebrating Memorial Day Weekend with the Casting for Kirby Youth Fishing Derby on May 28 and their annual Chowderfest & Brews on May 29. Science Center Show at 10 AM on May 30. For more information, go to www.waterville.com
Cannon Mountain is set in the breathtaking Franconia State Park, and will be in full swing this Memorial day. Echo Lake Beach at the base of Cannon Mountain opens on May 20th, as does the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, offering sweeping views of Franconia Notch State Park. Cannon will also offer bike and boat rentals starting on Memorial Day weekend. Cannon Mountain is set in the breathtaking Franconia State Park, and will be in full swing this Memorial day. Echo Lake Beach at the base of Cannon Mountain opens on May 20th, as does the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, offering sweeping views of Franconia Notch State Park. Cannon will also offer bike and boat rentals starting on Memorial Day weekend.
Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway opens their Aerial Adventure and Mountain Adventure Parks on weekends beginning May 28 through June 12 before opening seven days a week for the summer. They will also be open for Memorial Day on May 30. The Aerial Adventure Park has five elevated ropes courses, with an option for all ability levels. The Mountain Adventure Park offers attractions for kids and adults, including a mountain coaster, climbing wall, bouncy houses, the Soaring Eagle zip line, Mountain Coaster, Giant Swing and more.
Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford will debut their new Mountain Coaster this summer. But while they get ready for it to open, guests can take a trip down one of the longest zip line canopy tours in the continental United States on their zip line tour. The Aerial Treetop Adventures course is also available, offering 8 different courses, including one course just for kids. These attractions, along with scenic lift rides to the summit and off-road Segway tours, are open on weekends beginning May 28 and on Memorial Day, May 30. They open daily on June 25.
The Adventure Center and Aerial Adventure Park at Loon Mountain Resort in Lincoln opens May 28 with weekend hours through June 18 and daily hours beginning on June 25. Guests have a variety of activities to choose from including Gondola sky rides and activities at the summit, a climbing wall, maze, and the Aerial Forest, with a variety of elements from trapeze bridges to ladders and zip lines. There is also a series of mountaintop caves to explore – all set overlooking the White Mountains.
The Prouty™ is two days of athletic recreational events that raise funds to benefit Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC), a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Now in the 35th year the annual Prouty event is always held on the second Saturday in July in Hanover, New Hampshire.
The Prouty™ is an inspirational event where the community comes together as one to beat cancer. There is a Prouty route for participants of every age and interest: walking, bicycling, rowing on the Connecticut River, or golfing at the Hanover Country Club. The Prouty participants and volunteers are conquerors, survivors, and friends crossing the finish line for everyone who has been affected by cancer. The Prouty™ is an inspirational event where the community comes together as one to beat cancer. There is a Prouty route for participants of every age and interest: walking, bicycling, rowing on the Connecticut River, or golfing at the Hanover Country Club. The Prouty participants and volunteers are conquerors, survivors, and friends crossing the finish line for everyone who has been affected by cancer.
The Prouty™ began in 1982 when four NCCC nurses–inspired by the courage of their patient, Audrey Prouty–committed to cycling 100 miles through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Just before that first Prouty, Audrey died, nine years after her diagnosis with ovarian cancer. The four nurses honored Audrey's memory by raising $4,000 for cancer awareness and cancer research. This year the Prouty will raise about $3 million adding to the $23 million that has been raised over the years.
The events have more than 5,000 participants and volunteers teaming up with more than 130 corporate sponsors. The Prouty dollars stay at Norris Cotton Cancer Center to fund research seeking better ways to diagnose, treat and prevent cancer. These dollars have also funded patient services that help ease the way for patients and families struggling with cancer. Research conducted at the center makes a difference in the lives of patients all over the world.
The Prouty cycling routes are 20, 50, 77, 100 miles. Walking routes include 3, 6, 9, 12 km through residential areas, or 5, 10, 15, 20 km through wooded areas. Rowers go 5, 10, 15, 20 miles up and back on the Connecticut River. Virtual participation is also available.
The Prouty Ultimate is an associated two-day 200-mile cycling event. A former five-time participant of the Ultimate, Kimberly Lohr (the XCSkiResorts.com editor's spouse), has raised about $3,000 annually for the cause. Kimberly's involvement is typical of the Prouty participants and it includes fundraising, training for the two-day century rides and withstanding Mother Nature's obstacles…in this year's event she took a shorter 50-mile route and rode in the rain.
Nearly 90 cents of every Prouty dollar goes to support cancer research and patient services at NCCC. As founder Patty Carney says: "Everyone knows an Audrey Prouty." To consider participating next year or make a donation for this cause, click The Prouty.
As the 2015-16 ski and snowboard season comes to a close, Vermont resorts prepare for what was once considered the "off-season." No longer "off" for the summer month, many resorts prepare for spring, summer and fall activities, camps, upgrades and more. Summer and year round activities have expanded greatly at ski and snowboard resorts in Vermont over the last decade and the growth only continues. New mountain bike trails, ziplines, music events and family-friendly activities are just some of the new things to be found in the Green Mountains this summer season. What's New this Summer at Vermont Resorts – North to South:
Smugglers' Notch Resort: Each summer families choose Smugglers' Notch Resort for their vacation confident they'll find fun, thrills and special moments together enjoying the resort's ever evolving mix of seasonal programming. An already expansive selection of outdoor experiences included in Smugglers' vacation packages will have additional choices for families and teens. New health and wellness programs that appeal to older children and adults alike include creation of natural aromatherapy, skincare products, zesty food flavorings and health preparations under the guidance of a local herbalist. Activities returning after a successful launch last summer include a comprehensive mountain biking program and skills parks for all levels and jet pack propelled Flyboarding at Bootlegger's Basin, a reservoir with swimming beach and recreation area.
Stowe Mountain Resort: Stowe Mountain Resort has just opened an $80 million dollar Adventure Center and 'Stowe Rocks' climbing gym, the summer gateway to all new experiences on Spruce Peak and Mount Mansfield. Other new activities on the mountain include zip Lines down Vermont's highest peak and a Tree Top Adventure Course. Stowe ZipTour Adventure - ZipTour is one of the world's fastest and most exhilarating zip line experiences. Take Stowe's Gondola to the top and then Zip down three adrenaline charged spans to the bottom. Stowe Tree Top Adventure - Courses themselves entail a series of over 60 aerial tree-to-tree connections with various challenge elements intertwined in the design. The guided activity is ideal for most ages and offers outstanding pre-programmed team-building facilities for groups.
Trapp Family Lodge: Trapp Family Lodge's mountain bike trail system continues to grow this year. The Upper Growler trail was extended last fall and the final section will continue to the Cabin this summer. Also planned are new routes along Round Top, more single track and multi-use trails, and an expansion of the disc golf course around the completion of the new Bierhalle. With 64 mountain bikes in the rental fleet Trapp continues to grow and offer instruction and guided tours for interested parties. Trail running events will continue to be a primary focus for summer and fall competitions as running is a natural fit for their trail network and elevation profile.
Killington Resort: The Beast Mountain Coaster and Skyeride were new last year at Killington, and this summer the resort adds dual ziplines, six more Gravity Logic-designed mountain bike trails, summer tubing lanes, a 40-foot tower jump, food and beverage facility upgrades, kids camps and a new fleet of rental mountain bikes for riders of all ages. Action kicks off this Memorial Day Weekend with the Killington Golf Course and Clubhouse Bar and Grill, Beast Mountain Coaster, SkyeRide and the Bike Park's Snowshed-area trails opening for the summer, with upper mountain terrain and the K-1 Express Gondola to follow in mid-June.
Okemo Mountain Resort: Okemo introduced lift-served mountain biking last summer and the Evolution Bike Park at Okemo will operate again with a fleet of new Scott bikes and plans for trail expansion to take place. At Okemo's Adventure Zone, located at Jackson Gore, the newest additions are two bouncy castles and the Coleman Brook Mining Company, where kids can use a screen tray and water flowing through a sluice to reveal sparkling gems, minerals and even fossils – which they get to keep! A new Amp Energy Air Bag, measuring 33 by 33 feet square and 13 feet tall, makes its debut this summer in the Adventure Zone too.
Woodstock Inn & Resort: The Woodstock Inn & Resort has partnered with Orvis© to provide an exciting new guest experience at the resort's Athletic Club in Woodstock, Vermont. The Orvis© Endorsed Fly Fishing program will allow guests from beginner to expert to cast on some of Central Vermont's most picturesque streams and lakes while honing fly-fishing skills you can use for a lifetime. For the experienced angler, guides will take you on exciting excursions to tackle some of the more captivating hot spots and instructors can help you with everything from setting up the rod, to fly selection and knots, to how to safely release your catch all in a fun and friendly environment.
Stratton Mountain Resort: Stratton Mountain Resort will host a series of outdoor concerts at the mountain's scenic base area with headliners Donavon Frankenreiter, The Wailers, The Machine and more to be announced.
Mount Snow Resort: The riding at Mount Snow just got a lot better for kids ages 7-14 years, with a brand new fleet of rental downhill mountain bikes just for kids. Need a helmet? Ride safe and in style with new full face helmets included with every mountain biking rental this year. Need an excuse to get out and ride? Mount Snow's Dirt Cheap Bike Package includes downhill mountain biking and lodging starting at just $55 per night.
West coast ski resorts had seen a lack of snow for a few years and in the winter of 2015-16, it was the east and central regions' turn to suffer. Alpine ski areas have been making snow for decades but it is relatively new for cross country ski areas. About 40 cross country (XC) ski areas across the nation make snow and there is a significant chasm between XC areas that do and do not make snow.
High Point Cross Country Center in northern NJ reportedly was operational for only one day last winter. Mountain Meadows in central Vermont never had enough snow to set tracks on the trails. Timber Creek in southern Vermont, a ski area operating for decades said that in financial terms it was the worst winter ever.
The folks at Craftsbury Outdoor Center in VT commented that the winter had the least snow in recent memory, but thanks to snowmaking,
they were open for 131 days straight with a 12 to 24 inch base of machine-made snow. In years prior to snowmaking, the Center tallied only a quarter of the skier days in a good season compared to now because of snowmaking. The figures for this season appear to be close to last year's record.
Craftsbury "inherited" quite a few races this winter from other ski area venues that did not have the snow. Their regular programming this winter served 1,000 school kids during January with schools using the area for fitness or outdoor education programs. There were a lot of school teams that traveled to train at Craftsbury because there was no snow in their home situations. The Craftsbury ski club program held regular practice, training, and racing. Many of these programs would have been cancelled without snowmaking.Craftsbury also has offerings for older folks with regular visits all winter by a group for local seniors to stay healthy and active. Both indoors and out, they've become fixtures around the Center.
Snowmaking buffered the lodging too. It is projected there be less than an estimated 5% decline in lodging compared to last year. When that number is combined with frequent record days (in terms of receipts) at the lodge, it helped keep revenue flowing. Obviously, snowmaking has its costs that must be factored in, but the Craftsbury winter operation remained viable, keeping employees working and paid, and guests and visitors happy and engaged with Nordic skiing.
At Rikert Nordic Center near Middlebury, Vt. there were 8-10 days of skiing on natural snow, but they had skiing on 106 days during the winter due to their snowmaking operations. The skier visits at Rikert declined but the visits per day increased 15-20% and that is good for revenue.
What's more, Rikert provided team training and competitions that were pre-scheduled and they added a few races to substitute for ski areas that do not have snowmaking. Rikert's Mike Hussey, who loves to talk about his snowmaking system, said "In a typical year we use 4 million gallons of water and this year we were more like 5-6 million gallons. Finally in the end of February we said "uncle" with the snowmaking." They produce snow in the field and on some of the trails and they stockpiled the snow to move it when needed maintaining 2-2.5 kilometers of trails. "There were a lot of people putting in effort to make the snow." Rikert's programs such as Mom's Monday, Toddler Tuesday, and the Bill Koch League for kids all were held as planned.
The Sleepy Hollow Inn Ski & Bike Center in Huntington, Vt. had a snowless winter in 2012 so the following year they invested in a snowmaking system. Owner Eli Einman commented, "We make the snow in piles and use the Pisten Bully to push it out along the trail to cover about 50 yards at a time, and then we keep doing that until we cover 1.2 kilometers of trail. We have ski teams from nearby high schools and St. Michael's College that train here and we have booked our weekends with groups."
Bob Frye, the owner at Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, Mich. said, "We don't need a lot of snow, just a covered cross country ski park with little hills and a 1 kilometer loop. The kids love skiing around on the hills and people are so glad to just be on snow – their expectations change when there is a snowless winter." He stated that snowmaking helps bring income with lessons, retail and food sales, and it garners great local press, too.
In Waterville, Maine the Parks Director at the Quarry Road Recreation Area said snowmaking saved the winter. They produced snow seven times during the winter and were able to host two carnivals, high school races, fat bike demos, and ski club activities.
For XC ski areas, snowmaking is costly and labor-intensive, but the areas in the east and central regions that invested in it during a year like the winter of 2015-16 were singing a happier tune compared to their non-snowmaking competitors at the end of the season.
Top Photo: Snowmaking at Rikert Nordic Center in November; Bottom Photo: Bluebird day at Quarry Road Rec Area
Not everyone who visits a ski resort wants to or is able to ski or snowboard, so resorts offer other activities. Among those options, guests can explore and enjoy the outdoors on snowshoes. These snowshoe outings at ski resorts range from guided naturalist tours to nearby destinations to athletic fitness treks reaching the top of the mountain. Snowshoeing options at ski resorts are booming and becoming ever more creative.
Smuggler's Notch Resort known as a prime Vermont family destination has one of the most comprehensive mixes of snowshoe programs available. There are snowshoe treks for families with young kids, and outings for adults or families with older kids, who want a bit more in terms of the length of the trek, the topography covered, and the insights shared about the natural world and outdoor skills.
Programs are scheduled for specific days and times at different prices for adult and children. Special family snowshoe programs that are easy include the S'mores Snowshoe Tour, which is a guided snowshoe trek on Wednesday's 6-7:30 PM through the woods to a rustic pavilion and bonfire.
The Sugar On Snow Snowshoe Trek is where you learn a bit about the history and process of Maple Sugaring. Upon your return to Smuggler's Nordic Center, enjoy a sweet treat of Sugar on Snow, a Vermont tradition. On Tuesday evenings, Smuggler's Notch hosts a dramatic dining feature atop Sterling Mountain for adults, who ride the Sterling lift to a mountain cabin lit only by candles. There's a gourmet meal served with appetizer, salad, choice of main course, and dessert. After dinner, those calories can be burned off with a 40-minute snowshoe down to the Base Lodge.
Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, CO has a variety of snowshoe tours via the Strawberry Park Express chair lift. There are guided naturalist snowshoe tours for two hours that include the gear and a map at $175 for two people. The group tours are $73 per person. On certain days the 3-hour Fit Tour is available and there's also the Wine Excursion Snowshoe Tour. On Fridays, there's the Fondue & Snowshoe Tour and on Wednesdays the Women's Walk and Wine is offered. The Family Tour is 4-5:30 with a guide, hot cocoa and snacks. The private guided snowshoe tours include the two-hour outing at $285, the half day at $395, and the All Day Snowshoe Tour is $600. Following each tour, the Osprey Fireside Grill welcomes guests into its slope-side, mountain-modern elegance – where Executive Chef Conor Shedor presents decedent culinary and wine pairings befitting of a post-snowshoe hike. Click for a link to Beaver Creek Resort.
At Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, MI, there are daily guided snowshoe tours and evening moonlight snowshoe tours. One of the popular treks is to the Michigan Legacy Art Park, which is a 30-acre preserve on 1.6 miles of hiking trails within Crystal Mountain. The Art Park features 45 sculptures (20 in the winter), poetry stones, an outdoor amphitheatre (open in the summer). Click for a link to Crystal Mountain.
Stop by the Base Camp at Big Sky Resort in Montana for snowshoe adventures. They have a 2-hour snowshoe tour on the Moose Tracks Trail for up to 10 people at a time led by two local women guides. There are designated trails for snowshoers to go out on their own, but they are asked to pay a $5 trail pass. Click for the resort website video about the guided snowshoe tours that are available at $50 for guests aged 12 or olderat Big Sky Resort .
Back in Vermont, a resort that presents a different option is Mount Snow where snowshoe tours are available via the Grand Summit Hotel lodge's NatureSpa. There are planned and marked trail routes at the ski area and the unique "Guided Snowshoe Tour & Massage," that includes (for $185) a guided snowshoe tour followed by a sorely kneaded massage after returning to the spa. Trail loops can take an hour or two and snowshoes are available to rent. Click for a link to the NatureSpa.
Guided snowshoe tours take about an hour for $45 per person including the snowshoes, poles and a group guide. There are also private tours available and outings offered to people who are more athletic and looking for a fitness workout on snowshoes or an environmental tour with a local Vermonter talking about animal tracks or local geography. Trail maps for snowshoers are available at Mount Snow Sports, where snowshoe rental equipment and a trail pass can be acquired. The trail pass is $10 per day and rentals are $25 per day or $15 per afternoon.
It was necessary this year for some of the Smuggler's Notch snowshoe treks to be on the alpine slopes due to low snow in the valley. Snowshoers used the lifts to access a high elevation tour and a backcountry tour. The Smuggler's Nordic Director commented, "When the skiers saw the people snowshoeing on the slopesides, they wanted to get out of their skis to come and try it."
The SIA/Physical Activity Council 2014-15 Participation Study published by Snowsports Industries America (SIA) gives a clear picture of the cross country ski population in the USA. In a nationwide survey conducted with more than 40,000 people it was projected that there were 4,146,000 cross country skiers in 2014-15 (last winter season). While this was higher than the previous year, the impact of weather makes year-to-year comparisons not trendable.
Other 2014-15 snow sport populations were: alpine = 9,378,000; snowboard = 7,676,000; snowshoe = 3,600,000.
The age group information of cross country skiers showed 18% under 17; 13% between 18 and 24; 48% in the 25-44 age group, and 18% in the 45-64 age group, while 3% were aged 65 and above.
The gender of cross county skiers in 2015 according to the survey was 54-46 percent male-female as the percentage of female participation has declined over the last few years. Other demographic information included that 59% of cross country skiers had a household income above $75,000 annually and 52% had an educational level of a bachelor degree or higher.
The survey projections (from 2013) divided cross country skiers in the USA by geographic region. There was 15.9% of cross country skiers in the Pacific states, 18.2% in the MidAtlantic (NJ, NY, PA) region and 10.4% in the Mountain region. The North Central region remained the largest representation of the cross country skier population with 26.7% and 8.7% of cross country skiers were in New England. The remaining 20% of cross country skiers were in the 17 states of South Atlantic and South Central regions. Looking at the geographic data another way, Nordic equipment sales in snow sports specialty shops in 2015 were 44% in New England, 28.5% in the Midwest and 26.6% in the west.
Cross participation in other forms of recreation showed that 44% of cross country skiers are runners or joggers and 43% enjoyed hiking; 39% go bicycling on roads or paved surfaces while 27% of cross country skiers enjoy yoga. 41% of cross country skiers also alpine ski.
The Participation Study looked at ethnic demographics and cross country skiing's largest group of participants are Caucasian 63%. The other groups amidst cross country skiing included 7% African American, 17% Hispanic, and 10% Asian or Pacific Islander.
The average number of days that cross country skiers participated was 7.2 days and 24% of them participated 9 days or more.
Having someone to go with was the most significant factor that encouraged participants to go cross country skiing (61.9%). Other encouraging factors had similar statistics in the mid-to-high twenty percentages including being able to go cross country ski locally, getting a lesson, having new equipment, being in better health, having more vacation time, and fewer work commitments. Can more people overcome these obstacles to become cross country skiers? Thanks to Kelly Davis, SIA Director of Research for sharing the study findings with XCSkiResorts.com.
So you've decided to try cross country skiing, You can call it cross country skiing, Nordic skiing, XC skiing, or ski touring - when trying cross country skiing the first few times it may be a totally new experience for you and take time for you to become confident. Experienced cross country skiers might call you a first timer, beginner, novice skier, and even a "never-ever" but as with any recreational activity, if you do it a few times, it will become easier and more familiar. Cross country skiing can take a while to master, but it is outdoor fun even on the first time on skis.
Downhill Skiing is Not the Same as Cross Country Skiing
Most people believe that if you are an alpine skier and have mastered the lift-served form of snowsports, that you can easily master cross country skiing. But alpine ski equipment is much heavier than cross country ski gear – the big plastic ski boots and wide skis provide substantially more support compared to cross country ski equipment. Snowplowing on cross country skis takes more technique to roll your ankles and hold/push the
edge of the skis against the snow while you are moving. Even though both sports are on skis and on the snow, there are many differences between downhill skiing and cross country skiing.
Putting on the comfortable cross country ski boots, stepping on the bindings and attaching to the narrow skis, you may feel a bit wobbly at first. You'll be gliding down the smallest incline and you may feel unsure, but bend your knees and try to relax. Don't lean backwards - bend your knees and feel your weight on your heels and you'll have more control.
You Will Fall Down
Accept that you will likely fall while cross country skiing. Everyone falls while cross country skiing sooner or later and the snow provides a soft landing. Getting up after a fall is sometimes complicated to orchestrate, but take your time to untangle and get to your knees. Once on your knees it should be easy to stand up.
Many people dream about cross country skiing as an adventure in the forest and down hills in the wild. The truth is that this form of recreation is much easier on groomed trails…that is, trails that have been packed and tracked by a machine. On groomed trails, it is easier to glide, easier to go up hills, and easier to control the speed going downhill with a snowplow technique. Cross country ski areas provide trail grooming and charge a fee to use the trails. The trail grooming, signage, maps, lodge facilities, and other services are definitely worth the fee. Most cross country ski areas do not allow dogs to use the trails, but some areas offer dog-friendly trails.
To find a cross country ski area, use the Internet or websites such as www.XCSkiResorts.com or the Cross Country Ski Areas Association (www.xcski.org). For info about the month-long learn to ski or snowshoe program at hundreds of areas across the country, click Winter Trails.
The typical safety concerns are prevalent with cross country skiing. Go out with someone else, take water and food, and have some additional clothing (dry gloves, hat, neck gaiter, etc.) in case it gets colder or snows. These concerns can arise if you take a wrong turn where you end up on a longer trail that you expected.
If the terrain that you are skiing on is perfectly flat, you should
not have much problem on cross country skis but when there are hills, you'll encounter the sport's ups and downs. The first time going down a hill could be a bit frightening but as in any sport, with practice you will become more accustomed to the feeling…hopefully. It is best to get tips or a complete lesson. The various cross country ski techniques are taught by experienced or certified instructors at cross country ski areas. Most likely you have friends who try their best to provide insight on ways to master the skis. The former idea (with a certified ski instructor) is the better choice.
Get Out There
Cross country skiing provides one of the greatest full body workouts available as it uses all parts of the body's muscle groups. You may not feel exhaustion while you are out on the trails, but your body is working hard and using unfamiliar muscles, so take it easy. It's best to go on a short outing at first and build up the distance or time on the skis over multiple outings.
Getting information about equipment and the different forms of cross country skiing (on track, off track, skating, backcountry, etc.) can be found on the Internet and/or at a cross country ski area. It makes sense to rent your equipment the first couple of times to see if you like cross country skiing. When you get ready to purchase equipment, talk with professionals at a cross country ski area or retail shop to make a decision about what to purchase. Once you become a cross country skier, you'll look forward to when it snows and it will become a magical experience to enjoy every winter. Top photos, Fischer Skis, Bottom photo, Great Glen, NH
Had Nazi Germany won the competition to build the first atomic bomb in the early 1940's, the world today could be a very different place. The book entitled The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler's Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb is the gripping true accounting of the race to build the atom bomb during World War II.
In 1942, the Nazis were working on the atom bomb and they depended on a necessary ingredient "heavy water," which was produced in Vemork, Norway at an electricity plant run by Norsk Hydro. The Nazis invaded Norway and commandeered the facility, which was set in a castle fortress above a precipitous gorge. The production of heavy water was forcibly increased and shipped to Germany to be used in experiments needed to create the atomic bomb.
Bascomb sets the stage explaining the production of the bomb and the background of the story's Norwegian participants, who planned and implemented what may have been the most significant and daring commando raid of World War II. Various plans were hatched in Britain and communicated to Norwegian spies, who during the winter on their cross country skis in the backcountry withstood hardships to avoid the German occupiers. The Winter Fortress has plenty of activity on cross country skis including a long distance chase escaping Germans on skis, which would make any Norwegian Olympic biathlete proud.
The winter-oriented hardships were dramatic such as parachuting at night, freezing temperatures, the search for food, and during the nighttime trek to the Vemork plant "trudging through snowdrifts sinking nearly to their armpits in wet snow." During the raid the saboteurs were dressed in white camouflage suits over British Army uniforms to make it look like they were not Norwegians to spare the local population from German retaliation. They advanced on skis and on foot before climbing a 600-foot wall above the Mana River to clandestinely reach the facility, which was set on a rock ledge.
The efforts of the Norwegian underground to sabotage the plant were marred for months by miscalculations, malfunctions, and calamities as the men waited to receive orders. They braved multi-day blizzards, unsuccessful hunting for food, and cabin fever to the enth degree. These Norwegians, who refused to submit to the Nazi occupiers were mostly trained in Britain and supported by local sympathizers. They awaited the conceptualized schemes by British and Norwegian masterminds. The plans had various possible results that were outlined and comparatively analyzed by the author.
The story is a roller coaster of determined undertakings to interfere with the German efforts to produce and transport heavy water. The impact on the protagonists and their families and neighbors are portrayed as well as Nazi brutality in the war.
Neal Bascomb lives in Seattle and is a former international journalist, who is a widely recognized speaker on the subject of World War II and the best-selling author of Hunting Eichmann, The Perfect Mile, and Red Mutiny. The publication date of The Winter Fortress from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is scheduled for May 3, 2016.
About a quarter of the cross country (XC) skiing population is older than 50 years old and as the large segment of population known as Baby Boomers continues to age, they are remaining active - many of them are looking for softer or easier forms of recreation and cross country skiing and snowshoeing fit that prescription.
It is important for older people to exercise because it can help fight both physical and psychological maladies. Everyone understands the need to stay physically active and there is a growing body of research indicating that physical activity is beneficial for the brain, particularly the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain where working memory partially resides and is most susceptible to problems associated with aging. There is extensive evidence that outdoor exercise has positive impacts on sleep, depression, and anxiety. No matter how old you are, it just makes you feel good, too.
The SeniorsSkiing.com 2015 Subscriber Survey showed that the priorities of the older skiers include: discounts; easy access to the area facility from the parking lot; newsletter or website pages dedicated to specific activities catering to older skiers; instruction or guide tailored to older skiers; and a meeting place or set-aside areas in the lodge for seniors.
There are XC ski resorts and lodging establishments that have senior-friendly characteristics and the incentives almost always include discounts for older people. At Canmore Nordic Center in Canada, trail fee discounts begin at age 55, while most ski resorts set a higher age for lower-priced season or daily passes. At Bear Valley Nordic Center in CA, skiers aged 60-69 get a 28% discount on trail passes and those aged 70 and older get 60% off. At Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT there is a discount for skiers aged 60-69 while it is free for those aged 70 or older to access the ski trails. They also apply a "senior" discount for season passes. This is a popular way that most ski areas attract the older skier segment.
One of the age-old concepts is that many older skiers are retired and as such, they have more flexibility in their weekly schedule – also known as mid-week availability. During the week most cross country ski areas have few patrons, thus the development of group offers, activities, and programs such as at Lutsen Resort in MN where there is a Sunday-Thursday discount offer on lodging rates that includes free XC ski or snowshoe gear and a guide. The Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI (and other XC ski areas in MI) has the Silver Streak Week (Monday-Friday on January 11-15, 2016) with complimentary facility access, free hot cocoa, and free demos.
Programs such as Jackson Ski Touring's Friday Gliders & Easy Sliders and Tuesday Trekkers provide a group experience that's taken advantage of by mostly older folks. Such programs coordinate a scheduled weekly outing for groups such as the Easy Sliders, which is a group of skiers who cross country ski on easier trails (and they get tips from a guide) or the Tuesday Trekkers snowshoe group. For these examples, the Jackson Ski Touring Center in NH is the starting point and after the tour, people meet back at the lodge for an après ski spread with wine and cheese, fruit, coffee, and there's even a masseuse on hand to offer massage for tips. Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, NY hosts a weekly snowshoe club and Cross Country Ski Headquarters reports a similar group regularly drives two and half hours from Grand Rapids to visit and ski the area.
At Lapland Lake Vacation Center in Northville, NY there's a Silver Strider discount trail pass and the weekly "Soup-er Seniors," which includes a free bowl of soup on non-holiday Thursdays starting in January.
"Road Scholar" is a brand within the Elderhostel program intended for adults (many who are older) who want to travel, learn and stimulate discourse and friendship among other people for whom learning is the journey of a lifetime. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center hosts week-long Road Scholar XC ski programs during the winter months with programming inspired by the hostels and folk schools of Europe offering short term academic experiences to adults. This year Craftsbury Outdoor combines XC skiing and snowshoeing with yoga programs, film programs, and dance programs.
The folks taking advantage of cross country ski offers are proof that you're never too old to get out and enjoy nature in the winter. If you are an older skier or someone who would like to try cross country skiing or snowshoeing, check an XC ski resort near you for special programs. Upper Photo: Skiers at Cross Country Ski Headquarters; Lower Photo: 61-year old editor of XCSkiResorts.com with Mt. Washington in the background.
Trip Report to Izaak Walton Inn, MT
Thanks to www.HighOnAdventure.com for this trip report from Essex, MT and the Izaak Walton Inn, Montana's gateway to Glacier National Park and a railfan's dream destination http://www.highonadventure.com/hoa15nov/blishak/isaac-walton.htm. Thanks to article authors Ted & Sylvia Blishak.
Trip Report to Royal Gorge Ski Resort, CA
For an in-depth www.HighOnAdventure.com article on Royal Gorge Ski Resort in Soda Springs, CA by Larry Turner click: http://www.highonadventure.com/Hoa01dec/Royalgorge/royalgorge.htm
New at this year's Boston Ski Show was the SIA Nordic Village with "The Biathlon Experience" including an actual laser rifle and target and daily competitions, plus introductory tryouts of cross country skiing and snowshoeing using real equipment on Astro Turf track. The Nordic Village proved to be especially popular with youngsters ready for fun new experiences on snow.
For the first time at Boston Ski Show, cross country ski and snowshoe gear, clothing and accessories were featured and on sale at the new Nordic Specialty Shop at the Nordic Village inside the Expo hall, hosted by Great Glen Outfitters, Gorham, NH. According to Great Glen's Nate Harvey, "People checked out the Nordic ski products and got properly outfitted for the coming winter, including great active wear and boots. We sold more than a dozen ski packages and included a season pass with each of the purchases. A few marathon runners bought some clothing, too." He was happy to use the show to "broaden interest in cross country skiing and introduce it to people who might not have tried it before."
For years, the major metropolitan-based ski shows have attempted to include cross country skiing, but the overwhelming majority of show attendees are oriented to alpine skiing or snowboarding so show producers have had a limited focus on cross country skiing. Reese Brown, SIA Nordic Ski Director said "The show was great for us. It was standing-room-only all of the time during the busy sections and busy during the slower times. Most people had an understanding of biathlon from watching the Olympics. It was also very busy putting people on skis and snowshoes on the synthetic track. Many show attendees and exhibitors commented on how great it was to have cross country represented at the show and that there was a retail opportunity there, too." The show features radio stations simulcasts, fashion shows, and exhibits with ski areas, ski clubs, tour operators (they organize trips to ski resorts), lodging facilities, snow sports products such as ski gear, scarves, and electronic massagers, and much more. Reese commented, "I was very happy with the show and we're looking at how we can make a bigger splash next year."
The biggest and most successful annual exhibit show for cross country skiing/outdoors called the Outdoor Adventure Expo has been held for many years in Minneapolis, MN conducted by and at the location of retailer Midwest Mountaineering (held behind the store on Cedar Street, Mnpls). This show featured many seminars and presentations on the outdoors, as well as 75 regional exhibits, and a major sale. There was a Beer & Gear Social Night reception, the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which attracted 2,600 paying attendees, and a number of XC ski resorts that introduce people to their facilities and book reservations. The Outdoor Adventure Expo drew about 9,000 attendees this year and had nine classrooms at the adjacent university for seminars and presentations. Rod Johnson, owner of Midwest Mountaineering commented, "This was our 31st winter expo. The people get info about the outdoor skills they need and the can get equipment on sale." Photos from Reese Brown of a girl taking aim with a Biathlon rifle and the Great Glen exhibit at the Boston Ski Show
Beijing, China has been selected as the host of the 2022 winter Olympics and one wonders how well it will work for the athletes. Chelsea Little a former cross country ski competitor authored a special article for the Valley News regarding the problems associated with the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) selection of Beijing, China as the host of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Little's first contention is that the IOC members are overwhelmingly oriented to summer sports. The selection of the 2022 games host was between Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. Almaty is a winter-oriented city that had hosted the 2011 Asian Games and almost all of its winter sports infrastructure already exists. Beijing has very little snow and will construct totally new venues about 100 miles away from the city for the snow events (alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing), which are expected to require machine-made snow. The region where the developments are to be built has a very dry climate and the snowmaking will need to take much-needed water from the local inhabitants. It was reported that Chinese alpine ski resorts are normally closed by the time that March rolls around.
Of course, Beijing and China have problems with human rights, smog, and environmental degradation beside being run by an oppressive regime…but Almaty is similar in those refrains. Considering what went on with Sochi (environmental debacle during construction of the venues and the invasion of the Ukraine) the IOC members do not have strict standards with regard to such social and environmental issues.
The vote for Beijing was 44 of 85 and this was two votes more than the majority needed to win, so a look at the IOC voting is relevant to the discussion. It should be known that the "IOC Evaluation Committee" were the only members to actually visit the potential host sites. This is of course, necessary because a "no-visit" policy is in effect since historically it is believed that bid cities were apt to give bribes to get IOC members' votes. Few of the voting members ever actually visited Almaty but many of them had been to the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing. How can decisions be made on the host city without actually visiting the site candidates? By the way, the Evaluation Committee released a 138-page report showing that 8 of 9 commission members preferred Almaty.
With regard to the IOC host city election process, more than half of the 100 members who vote are from countries that have not won a winter Olympic medal in the last four cycles. And countries with strong winter Olympic teams such as Austria, Czech Republic, Belarus, Finland, and Slovenia are not represented among the IOC members at all. Only 9 of the voting IOC members have ever worked in winter sports.
Of the 98 winter Olympic events, 62% of the 2014 Sochi Olympic events were held on snow. Of the 100 current IOC members, only two come from a ski background (Einar Bjoerndalen, Norwegian biathlete and Gian Franco Kasper, of the International Ski Federation). There were 15 IOC members, who did not vote on the selection. They were unwilling or unable to attend the IOC meeting in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). For, example, Bjoerndalen did not attend the meeting because he was training for the World Cup to be held in Oslo, Norway in the last season of his career. He might have been able to address the IOC members regarding his experience in Almaty.
Machine-made snow is not uncommon for alpine skiers, freestylers, and snowboarders, but most of the cross country ski and biathlon event participants will be much less familiar with the manufactured snow consistency. And warm temperatures may require salting the snow, which is used to prevent it from becoming slush during the competitions. There were some of these warm temperature problems at some of the cross country and biathlon events held in Sochi. It is assumed that all snow competitors would prefer natural snow to machine-made snow. You would imagine that the natural snow is much safer compared to salted-up ice or slush!
Economically, Kazakhstan could have afforded to host the Olympic event, which they estimated at $4.5 billion, a pittance in today's Olympic game costs, particularly compared to the $51 billion Sochi price tag in 2014. The country has the largest economy in central Asia as it is the third largest non-OPEC supplier of energy to the European Union. But the Chinese consumer market presents a rosy opportunity to the IOC, who also has it eye on sponsorship potential in China.
Understanding Little's perspective, perhaps it is time that adjustments are made in the Olympic site selection process so there is more concern for the athletes and more IOC members who have experience in the winter games are appointed to make these decisions in the future. (Photo of competitor Kikkan Randall, unrelated to author)
As the cross country (XC) ski season winds down most XC ski areas close because of lack of skiers rather than lack of snow on the trails. The sun comes out, the temperature rises, and the XC skiers quit. Why? Are we infected with winter fatigue? Is the lure of spring time recreation too strong to ignore?
XCSkiResorts.com spoke with some ski area operators around the nation to get their take on spring skiing. Many areas host springtime season pass holder parties and offer big discounts for purchasers of season passes for next year. Lapland Lake in Northville, NY commented that their trails are compacted on a daily basis so the snow does not disappear like in the city or open areas in suburbia. Lapland's Kathy Zahray encourages skiers and snowshoers to get out and enjoy this weather and these great spring conditions!"
Zahray admits that "the reality is that in the spring it costs more for grooming and staffing than the amount of income earned from diminishing skiing patrons, however this is one of the most fun times of the year to enjoy the outdoors. The milder temperatures and discounted rates are terrific for everyone and it is fun to ski in shorts and t-shirts."
Breanne Torrey at Jackson Ski Touring Center in NH says "The best reason to ski at JXC in the spring is the exceptional snow management combined with the fact that several of the trail systems are in higher elevated areas. When the cover is thin the groomers know what to do to prolong the season and the trail systems like Prospect Farm and the South Hall are in higher elevations with greater snow coverage. Another reason is that a season pass for next season can be purchased at a discount!
In Minnesota at Maplelag Resort, proprietor Jay Richards concurs "that people want to get on the snow early but get tired of winter and ready for warm spring days." During the spring, they average about a dozen skiers a week and do not offer special incentives to encourage spring skiing. He feels that "skiers in the Midwest are conditioned to colder and drier snow compared to skiers in other regions who are more accustomed to a wider variety of snow conditions."
At Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI they run spring events on machine-made snow such as a paintball biathlon, and their March Madness sale offers great deals on equipment and clothing. Proprietor Lynne Frye commented that "it is easier to be outside for a longer time in the spring - the days are longer, but the skiing is not over yet!"
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT also offered passes for next season at a great rate. The ranch's ski director said "guests ask why the trails are being closed while there is so much snow on the ground and we are seeing good weekend numbers, but it is much slower than any other part of the season. We'll continue to groom the trails regularly but we have easements on the private property that end on or before April 15."
The Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO opened a new facility last year and skiers are enjoying the patio and hanging around with a glass of beer or wine. They've held some well-attended fundraising events this spring and expect to remain open through the second weekend of April. Owner Matt Dayton said "We're having really warm days but own snow holds up really well."
At most alpine ski areas there are usually weekend spring parties and incentives with lower prices as the trail counts begin to dwindle. BBQ lunches and live music are popular as are pond skimming and costume days on the slopes. At XC ski areas, it makes sense that more events and incentives can be conceived and scheduled to encourage more visitation at the end of the year. Photo: Groomed trail with blue skies at Byrncliff Resort.
The Woodstock Inn & Resort is one of Vermont's true gems for travelers. It offers warm New England hospitality amidst an atmosphere of country elegance and year round recreation. Resort facilities include the new 10,000 square-foot Spa, the Resort's Nordic Center, Suicide Six alpine ski area, the Resort's Golf Club, and a 41,000 square foot Racquet & Fitness Club. However, it's the lavish details of the wood-burning fireplaces in guest rooms, luxurious terrycloth bathrobes, and locally-made furnishings, that defines the country sophistication and completes the picture of charm and comfort at the Woodstock Inn & Resort, which rises above expectations.
The Woodstock Inn & Resort is a 142-room, AAA Four Diamond Resort and a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. The village of Woodstock is located in Vermont's Green Mountains with antique shops, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and specialty food markets in the downtown area...but if you also want recreation the Woodstock Inn & Resort delivers.
In the winter months, the inn's Racquet & Fitness Club is situated close to the inn hosting the Woodstock Nordic Center. There are partnerships between the inn and both Fischer Nordic Skis and Tubbs Snowshoes. The Nordic Center maintains some 60 kilometers of trails in the area – half of which are part of the nearby Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Professional instruction, ski storage, equipment sales and rental equipment are available at the ski shop, as well as a full line of clothing and accessories for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
The Tubbs Snowshoes Adventure Center features guided tours, group teambuilding exercises, and family-friendly scavenger hunts. Beginners and experts alike will find the 30 kilometers of trails against the backdrop of the Resort's expansive grounds, with flat tracks along the babbling Kedron Brook on the golf course and more challenging uphills and downhills on the adjacent Mt. Peg property. Winter adventure-themed vacation packages are built around the Tubbs Snowshoes Adventure Center. From romantic to adventurous, there are value-packed getaways with the adventure centers designed for guests to enjoy an exhilarating way to experience the peace and tranquility of Woodstock in winter.
My wife and I enjoyed part of the Romance Excursion Package including accommodations for two nights, welcome gift basket, breakfast and a four-course dinner for two at the Red Rooster Restaurant, and a guided snowshoe trek to a four-course chef's dinner at the Mt. Tom Cabin in the national park. We also went cross country skiing on groomed ski tracks accessed from the Racquet & Fitness Club on a sunny morning followed by wonderful massages in the Spa. On the second morning, I went snowboarding at the nearby Suicide Six ski area while my wife took a yoga class at the club. Overall, we were impressed with the inn and its staff, each and every one of them. In all of our interactions, the Woodstock Inn & Resort staff was especially attentive to us, often without the need of having to ask.
On Saturday evening, we reached the Mt. Tom Cabin after crunching up about one and a half miles on snowshoes up a hardpacked snowy trail under a clear and cold starry night. The meal was prepared on a wood-burning cookstove by the Woodstock Inn's chef in a candlelight cozy setting. The evening's guide associated with the national park was a naturalist that imparted some of his knowledge about winter nature and history of the park, which is the only national park dedicated to conservation stewardship. The park's 550-acre forest is one of the oldest professionally managed forests in the USA with 400-year old hemlocks and Norway Spruce.
The inn's Main Lobby is comfortably furnished and features a 10-foot fieldstone fireplace at its center. Don't miss the newly opened Game Room, which is a hoot for the kid in all of us. It has a mix of games including a 4-foot scrabble board on the wall played with magnetic tiles, three real pinball machines, billiards, foosball, six TVs, video games, and more.
The new 10,000 square-foot spa has 10 treatment rooms, luxurious suite, tranquil men's and women's lounges, a light-filled Great Room, enclosed outdoor courtyard featuring a meditation tree and a wood sauna and a hot soaking pool. Guests can choose from a wide selection of treatments performed by licensed therapists.
The Woodstock Inn & Resort's own Suicide Six Ski Area opened in 1937, just a few years after the first ski tow in the United States was rigged up just over the ridge at Gilbert's Hill. Suicide Six has since evolved into a friendly and personal ski area that caters to families and local skiers. On Sunday morning when I visited, the slopes were covered with young local ski racers learning the ins and outs of skiing gates.
The Woodstock area offers other activities including day trips to nearby points of interest such as Simon Pearce Glass, Shackleton Furniture, or the Quechee Gorge. The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, is Vermont's first national park and it operates in partnership with the Woodstock Foundation, Inc, and the Billings Farm & Museum – a working dairy farm and agricultural museum that mirrors rural life in Vermont in the late 1800s.
We excitedly planned a weekend trip to Jackson, N.H., because it is a true Mecca for Nordic skiers. This is the quintessential New England Nordic (XC) skiing experience with the covered bridge, white steepled church, brookside trails, and the accompanying village with all of the trappings.
Many of the trails lead right to the door of local inns, shops, and restaurants. It's no wonder that Jackson Ski Touring Foundation has been rated the top cross country ski area in the United States by the website, America's Best Online.
The Foundation is a non-profit organization chartered to maintain XC ski trails in and about the village of Jackson. There are about 75 landowners that allow trails to cross their property. Country inns are spaced throughout the region and the base lodge is a golf country club located on the village loop. The Cocoa Cabin is a warming hut serving hot cocoa on the weekend, located 3 km from the center on the gentle Ellis River Trail. Snowshoers can take a rustic narrow marked snowshoe trail from the center to reach the Cocoa Cabin.
We stopped at nearby Bretton Woods Nordic Center on the way to Jackson to ski in a snow storm for about 10 km on beautiful trails behind the Omni Mt. Washington Hotel. The grand hotel is at the southern base of the mighty Mt. Washington with 1,700 acres of spectacular scenery. This full service ski center has its own parking area and houses the ski school, rental equipment, and a retail shop with XC ski clothing and accessories. The center has a fireplace with couches and food service with tables and seating.
It was a problematic tour for my wife Kimberly, who had snow sticking to the base of her waxless skis. I tried applying a lubricant called Swix Easyglide a few times but it didn't work for more than 50 feet before the snow stuck to the skis again. In a husband-oriented display of gallantry, I switched skis with her but I couldn't get them to glide very well either.
We arrived at the Inn at Ellis River in Jackson after leaving Bretton Woods and were showed to our room-with-a-view by new innkeepers John and Mary Kendzierski. The next morning we awoke to the aroma of bacon, which while incredible, does not do justice to how good the maple bacon tastes when accompanying a choice of two hot entree specialties such as cinnamon crepe stuffed with apple filling and topped with
creme fraiche or pecan praline French toast. There's also fruit, yogurt, granola, and freshly baked breads, muffins, and other breakfast treats. The breakfast tables were covered antique metal sewing treadle tables. Looking out the windows from the dining room adorned with snowman figurines, we saw frolicking squirrels hopping from tree branch to tree branch.
Behind the inn and across the Ellis River is the Ellis River Trail, one of the most popular trails from the center lodge for XC skiers and snowshoers. We first stopped by the Jackson Ski Touring Center and got my wife's skis hot waxed as we waited. The wax job worked like a charm as we left the center for a short tour through the covered bridge, ending up at the Cocoa Cabin. The skiers along the Jackson trails are mostly experienced and courteous meaning they give the right of way to downhill skiers and get out of the groomed ski tracks when appropriate. Most say hello as they pass.
We lunched on scrumptious sandwiches at the J-Town Deli & Country Store, a warm and enticing old-fashioned country store that has a bakery, beer, wine, sweets and treats. Then, we headed to our appointment for a "couples" massages at Moondance Massage. Beside massages, Moondance offers energy work, facials, and yoga classes. By the end of the massages, we were both amazed at how our respective soreness was alleviated. We noticed three more couples coming in the door at Moondance, so this apparently is a popular venture for Jackson visitors.
The "Foundation" maintains 150 km of varied and breathtaking XC ski and snowshoe trails 2 hours north of Boston. Foundation trails connect with A.M.C. trails in Pinkham Notch and White Mountain National Forest backcountry adventure trails.
Our après ski time led us to the Wildcat Inn Tavern in downtown Jackson for some live music and libations. The tavern walls display classic ski posters and some antique gear such as snowshoes and a pair of red Jarvinen XC skis. The seats in one of the rooms were built to look like double chairlifts and there were soccer jerseys from around the world pinned to the ceiling. Afterward, we dined at the nearby Christmas Farm Inn for a great dinner and dessert.
Our getaway day included a stop and tour at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center, about ten miles outside of Jackson up the Pinkham Notch toward Gorham. The panorama view from the center of the Presidential Range and Mt. Washington is unparalleled. We skied a few cold and windy kilometers on wide whimsically-named trails such as the Great Grump Grade and Hairball Passage toward the Great Angel Warming Cabin. The trails were impeccably groomed and on our way back to the lodge we stopped by the Caddidlehopper Warming Hut and watched the Mt. Washington SnowCoach head up to treeline on the nearby Toll Road.
The White Mountains and Jackson met our expectations delivering great snow, excellent trails, and a superb weekend at a destination worthy of being named a Mecca of Nordic skiing.
Want a guilt-free way to indulge yourself with food while exercising? Cross country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing are some of the best forms of aerobic exercise, but if you go on a "Gourmet Ski Tour" on your XC skis or snowshoes, you may very well eat your way to fitness at a number of trailside food stops. What a grand time so go ahead, eat, ski, and be merry - appetizers, wine, champagne, fondue, entrees, desserts, and more.
Here's a cross section of the culinary XC ski events that are planned this winter across the country with a varied menu of fun and fine cuisine.
Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, VT has the Romance Marathon & Tour with a 25 km tour through the Green Mountain forests with feed stations along the trail on Saturday, Feb 13, 2016.
Smugglers Notch in VT has the S'mores and Snowshoe Trek every Wednesday night 6-7:30 PM. S'Mores await snowshoers after a short trek to a bonfire. A warming meal of hot soup, bread and beverage at a trailside cabin is a destination for the Soup and Snowshoes guided trek mid-day on Sundays and Wednesdays, and on Tuesday nights there's a Snowshoe Adventure Dinner at the mountain summit.
The Valentine's Day Destination S'Mores Station at Bretton Woods Nordic on February 14 with self-guided tours from 11 AM - 2 PM or a guided group tour at noon for sweets where you can roast your own marshmellows over the roaring fire and build your own S'mores treat. It's on easy trails, so it's great for the kids. S'Mores Kits available at the Nordic center.
The Chocolate Festival at Mt. Washington Valley Ski & Snowshoe Center in Intervale, NH on February 28 is an inn-to-inn affair at 10-12 stops to experience your chocolate fantasies including moose and fondue. Go on a tour of any length and actually gain calories, even if you ski as far as 20 kilometers. A shuttle is also available for those that have overindulged at the event dubbed the "Sweetest Day on the Trails."
Treetops Resort in Gaylord, MI has the Skiable Feast Getaway Package that features a winter gourmet adventure with 5 buffet food stations along 6 km of trails. It is offered on 7 dates during January-March.
On Feb 20, Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI the "Ski the Beer Trail" is a new event sponsored by Paddle Hard Brewing with XC skiing, craft beer tasting, and a rustic BBQ lunch along the trails.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Ironwood features cuisine from local restaurants that can be purchased at a nominal fee along a designated route along the trails at the Taste of the Trails on the ABR trails on March 12 at 11 AM - 2 PM.
Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO hosts the Grand Huts.org Progressive Dinner on Feb 20 with a multi-course meal at outposts along the trail in a fundraiser for the huts.
Just Desserts Eat & Ski in the Enchanted Forest in Red River, NM on February 27 features goodies from 20 different local restaurants at three trailside stations with up to 100 desserts within a 4 kilometer loop. Their motto is, “It’s not a race, just a gorge fest.”
The Rendezvous Trails in West Yellowstone, MT features cuisine from local restaurants that can be purchased at a nominal fee along a designated route along the trails at the Taste of the Trails on February 20.
Look to the Galena Lodge in Ketchum, ID for the Full Moon Dinners on nights ssociated with the full moon, (Jan 22, 23 & 24, Feb 20, 21 & 22, Mar 23, 24, & 25) whereby you can go ski or snowshoe ($5 snowshoe rental offered) and then return to lodge for a 4-course dinner at $40 or half price for kids under 12. There are also special Wine Dinners, Holiday Dinners, and a Valentine's Day Dinner.
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT has the Glide & Gorge event on March 6 from 11:00 AM- 3:00 PM with trail luncheon stationed with delicious foods paired with wine and spirits from the Ranch's four-star kitchen.
Royal Gorge XC Ski Resort in Soda Springs, CA has the Royal Fondo Tour on January 23 with skiing or snowshoeing to various huts along the trails for snacks and lunch at the resort's Summit Station and on April 8 there's the Sunscreen Tour of the trails followed by a BBQ.
Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center in Truckee, CA has the Taste of Truckee presenting food from local restaurants along the trails on Mar 20.
Cypress Mountain outside of Vancouver, BC has Family Chocolate Fondue in the Forest Snowshoe Tours scheduled for holidays at 2:00 PM with a chocolate fondue on Dec 27 and 29 and Jan 2 and 3. These programs include rental equipment, trail access, and guides/instructors.
Among some women, the "Girls' Getaway" weekend or program has become an annual tradition where small or extended groups of women, ladies, girls, mothers, daughters, or friends organize a get together unaccompanied by (one might even say unburdened by) or exclusive of men, boys, brothers, and fathers. The motivation and/or common denominator is about connecting.
A girls' weekend might include recreating or relaxing together, enjoying good food and libations, and a host of other activities that provide the backdrop for engagement and lasting memories. XCSkiResorts.com has found a list of women's programs for the upcoming winter 2015-16 ranging from once-a-week group outings to week-long all inclusive packages.
The Lapland Ladies Love to Ski is an instructional cross country ski program that runs 3 times a winter and has been ongoing for about 10 years. It is designed for women and taught by women at Lapland Lake XC Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY. Female participants, who are beginner or intermediate level skiers, register for the program for a one-time activity or for all 3 outings. They are grouped to learn and practice ski techniques and they all have lunch together followed by a presentation about cross country ski equipment, clothing, and other topics. After lunch the group is self-divided into smaller groups for a social ski tour out in different directions on the trails and then back in the lodge for a hot beverage and a chocolate goodie at the end of the day. Classic skiing on Jan 23 & Feb 20; Skate skiing on Mar 5. The $50 price includes the trail pass, lunch, and discount coupons to use in the ski shop.
Rangeley Lakes Outdoor Center in ME has Ladies Day on Mondays with a half price trail pass and a FREE cup of soup.
Go Red for Women's Heart Disease program at Great Glen Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH on Feb 5 with 50% discount on trail passes and rental equipment to those wearing red. Also Women's Winter Escape is on Jan 16-17 from 8:30 - 4:30 for an all-women’s weekend with classic and skate ski clinics, naturalist-led snowshoe tours, yoga, equipment demo, snow tubing, nutrition talk and more;
The Lady's Tea & Ski program at Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, NY runs on Tuesdays from mid-Jan to mid-Mar 11 (not Feb vacation) at 9:30 AM with lunch and skiing afterward. Trail pass, lesson, lunch, and equipment (if needed) included. Backcountry outings also included on some of the days. 518-251-2150. Preregistration required. $30 per session or $150 for 6 week program (discounted for season pass holders)
The Catamount Trail Association runs the Ladies Nordic Ski Expo at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT on January 9. The New England Women's XC Ski Day is scheduled at Jackson Ski Touring Center in Jackson, NH on January 24 with gear demo, lunch, prizes, gear demo, and wrap up party.
CENTRAL & MOUNTAINS
Lutsen Resort in MN has the Girlfriends Getaway Package for anytime of year with a bottle of champagne, breakfast, dinner, a spa treatment, guided tour with complimentary XC ski or snowshoe gear (or hiking, biking, or sea kayaking in the warmer months) and galleries and shopping in nearby Grand Marais. Photo: On the lake shore in winter at Lutsen Resort. Photo of Girls Getaway at Lutsen Resort.
Maplelag Resort in Callaway, MN has the Women's Ski & Be Yoga Retreat, which includes getting outdoors in nature for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, healthy meals, and massage on Jan 28-31, 2016. A number of girls' getaways at Maplelag are organized by patrons, who have visited the resort with their families and then return another time with other women to enjoy a variety of activities such as quilting, knitting, book discussions, board games, and so on. The family style meals at Maplelag make it easy for the groups to engage and there's the added bonus that none of the gals have to cook during the weekends, either.
Timber Ridge Nordic Center in Traverse City, MI has She-Ski a Wednesday Ladies Night with cross country skiing or snowshoeing and a speaker with munchies on Jan 6 and Feb 3. The Women's Winter Tour is a themed cross country ski, snowshoe and hike event at the same location on Feb 7, 2016 with a sampling of chocolate and other food goodies. For more info, check www.womenswintertour.com.
Ski, Spa & Soak Day at Devils Thumb Ranch Resort in Tabernash, CO on Saturday, Feb 20 includes XC ski lessons, lunch, yoga, hot tub, sauna, and wine and cheese. Massage or facial available at special rates.
The Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat, CO has the Share & Save (starts at $335 per night with a 3 night minimum) program offer during certain times in the season. There are three meals a day, cross country ski instruction, guided backcountry ski tours, equipment to use, cooking classes, wine tasting, sleigh rides, horseback riding, photography workshops, and evening entertainment. Such a package includes transportation from the airport to the resort and there are many extras offered to extend the memories such as dogsledding, alpine skiing, massage, and premium wines at an additional price
Sun Mountain Lodge and Cascade Endurance in Winthrop, WA has the Women's Ski & Yoga Retreat on Feb 26-28 with XC skiing, yoga, breakfast and lunch, ski sessions, wine/hors d'oeuvres reception, and relaxation. Ski for Women is a fun event set for Feb 7 from 1-4 PM at the Mazama Community Club with the Methow Valley Nordic Club.
Women's Ski Weekend at Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, MT on the Amtrak line and scheduled on Jan 16-17, 2016 with lodging, 1 hour skate skiing instruction, two 1-hour yoga sessions, and 30 minute massage, buffet dinner and one night accommodations.
Royal Gorge XC Ski Resort in Soda Springs, CA has a Women's Skate Clinic with Olympic skier Katerina Nash for a classic ski clinic on Jan 16 at the Village Station and an intermediate skate clinic on Feb 27 at the Summit Station.
One multi-year women's weekend participant jokingly cited "verbal profuseness" as the prime characteristic of her getaway experience with female friends. Such getaways may have a distinct purpose such as high performance fitness exercise or healthy wellness activities or they could incorporate different themes, but it is the composition of the group, which determines the vibe for the weekend. Check the XCSkiResorts.com Product News Page for info about women's XC ski equipment.
Kids on cross country skis or snowshoes? It is not only about child obesity, nature deficit disorder, and better brain function – it's about fun. What can the kids do after school or on the weekends? Have you set your plans for the school breaks this coming winter? The winter can be snowy yet mild and great for a weekly program or a family winter vacation with plenty of cross-country (xc) skiing and snowshoeing, so gather up the kids and head to the hills. There are xc ski resorts that are exceedingly kid-friendly with fun activities to enjoy on the snow. And xc skiing and snowshoeing not only delivers great times for kids, they create memories they'll have for a lifetime.
We know about the calorie-burning effectiveness of xc skiing and snowshoeing. We understand that kids should get outdoors more often. And according to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness in Baltimore, studies support the idea that exercise can improve learning efficiency for kids. In short, exercise and better fitness are associated with better brain function. Here are some samples of the unique xc ski and snowshoe programming at xc ski areas this winter:
Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH has the weekly Bill Koch Club with an emphasis on having fun and improving XC skills. The Trail Tracker program is free everyday scavenger hunt at Great Glen, which is a big hit for kids to track down cartoon animals out on the trails. When they find the animated creatures, they stamp a card and upon return to the lodge they get a treat.
Lapland Lake in Northville, NY has the Reindeer Rally season-long program for kids supervised by skilled, kid-friendly, incredibly entertaining PSIA-certified instructors. The program, which is for kids aged 5 – 11 runs 90 minutes on weekends and holiday weeks. The "on-ski" games include Toilet Bowl Tag, Limbo, Spider (flag tag), Soccer on Snow, Relay Slalom, Caterpillar Relay, Sharks & Minnows, Scavenger Hunt, Elephant Hunt & more!
Jackson Ski Touring nestled in the Jackson Village in the NH's White Mountains has a kid's terrain garden and the Thursday After-School Program. Kids are encouraged to ski or snowshoe to a 3-kilometer destination to the Cocoa Cabana, which is open on weekends. Upon arrival kids that ski around a little Anklebiter's Race Course and get a medal. Jackson has created a variety of incentives to help parents get their kids enthused about XC skiing.
The Snow School program has snowshoeing for kids in more than 45 locations across the nation such as Cable Natural History Museum in WI; the Willows Ecology Center in Lapeer, MI; Glacier National Park, MT, Craters of the Moon National Monument in Arco, ID; and the Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center in Nederland, CO. Some of these programs include games, ecology, wildlife tracking, outdoor skills and more. Go to the Winter Wildlands Web site or Facebook page for a list of Snow School locations.
The Loppet Nordic Ski Foundation runs one of the largest introductory kids cross country ski programs of its kind in the country at the Theodore Wirth Park, just minutes from downtown Minneapolis, MN. Group lessons are also held at Hiawath and Columbia golf courses. Some 600 kids from six elementary and two middle schools learn to ski each year through the Foundation's programming. Kids are taught how to ski and use the equipment as well as given info about fitness and nutrition. The Foundation grooms a small trail at each school, so that the kids can ski right out the door in their physical education classes.
Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO has one of the best equipment exchange programs for kids whereby kids can trade in their old equipment for similar or upgraded equipment or gear in a different category. The Frisco Nordic Center, which is on the way to Breckenridge, will hold a Kid's Festival Fun Day in March.
Methow Trails in Winthrop, WA has two StorySki trails that feature 1 km loops with illustrated story book pages on large panels displayed along select trails for kids to read as they ski or snowshoe. And the trails are free for kids under the age of 17!
A number of states conduct statewide programs to encourage kids to get outdoors in the winter. The Ski New Hampshire "4th and 5th Grade Passport" offers trail passes for one visit at the state's XC ski resorts. The Michigan Snowsports Industries has the "Cold is Cool Passport," which requires that an adult paying full price must accompany the kids and there is a $15 cost associated with the passport for XC skiing. In the Burlington, VT area, the Catamount Trails Association is conducting the Ski Cubs youth program for building skills, fitness, winter ecology and fun adventure. The program is free and provides kids with gear for skiing and snowshoeing. The WinterKids organization in Maine also has a variety of programs for thousands of kids each winter.
Smuggler's Notch Resort in VT is known for family programming. The one and a half hour XC ski lesson for kids happens in a special terrain park that has snowy roller bumps and other features for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis. Snowshoe programs at Smuggler's include the Cider Walk and the Sugar on Snow Trek.
Also in VT, the Bolton Valley Nordic Center's kids program focuses on the development of basic Nordic skiing skills as well as natural history, games, and orienteering. There is a three week session held for kids aged 6-10 on Sundays this year at the center at 10 AM -1 PM on Jan 17, 24, and 31.
These winter programs feature ways for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis or snowshoes. And they're committed to helping kids develop lifelong habits of health, education, and physical fitness through participation in outdoor winter activities…and as the kids can attest they are also just plain fun. Photos: XC Ski Kids by Fischer Nordic; Snowshoe Dad & Kids by Smuggler's Notch Resort.
Smuggler's Notch Resort, known as a prime Vermont family destination has one of the most comprehensive mixes of snowshoe programs available this winter. There's snowshoe treks for families with young kids, and outings for adults or families with older kids who want a bit more in terms of the length of the trek, the topography covered, and the insights shared about the natural world and outdoor skills. On an extended Smuggler's visit, snowshoe enthusiasts can find a different guided outing to do practically each day, as well as explore the trail network on their own.
Programs are scheduled for specific days and times at different prices for adult and children so check the Smuggler's website. Special Family Snowshoe Programs that are easy include the Family Snowshoe Cider Walk, which is an educational and fun guided trek on the special kids' trail, followed by hot apple cider at the Nordic Center. The Sugar On Snow Snowshoe Trek is where you will learn a bit about the history and process of Maple Sugaring. Upon your return to the Nordic Center, enjoy a sweet treat of Sugar on Snow, a Vermont tradition.
There are snowshoe hikes to a cozy cabin and treks available to learn about Vermont history, wildlife, and ecology as well as winter survival skills and tips. Learn about the animal tracks, habitat, and local flora while experiencing the scenic winter landscape.
Intermediate snowshoers can ride to the top of the Morse lift to explore backcountry terrain at a high elevation or do a trek to learn about maple sugaring with a sample of pure maple syrup.
Smuggler's also offers private snowshoe guided adventures, where you choose your own adventure daily by appointment. Intermediate snowshoe tours include the S'Mores & Snowshoes Trek, which is a guided snowshoe trek on Wednesday's 6-7:30 PM through the woods to a rustic pavilion and bonfire. This is a beautiful backcountry experience!
The Top of the Notch Snowshoe Adventure Dinner is one of the most popular programs on Tuesdays, a dramatic and delicious dining experience atop Sterling Mountain (18 & older please). The Sterling lift transports you to The Top of The Notch, a mountain cabin lit only by candles. The renowned Hearth & Candle Restaurant serves a gourmet meal with appetizer, salad, choice of main course and a famous dessert. After dinner, work off those calories with a 40 minute snowshoe down to the Base Lodge. Advance registration at The Guest Service Desk is required. It takes off at off at 4:10 PM and the package includes lift access, snowshoes, and dinner for $69.
Dinner choices typically include seafood chowder or venison chili for the warming first course, and Vermont chicken breast with cheddar cheese and sliced apples, pork tenderloin, and vegetable lasagna for entrees. Warm apple crisp is the dessert. The cabin is a really congenial setting with candlelight and large tables. The tour around the summit is beautiful, whether you're enjoying it by starlight or with falling snow, and many of Smuggler's return guests enjoy the dinner on each visit.
Smuggler's guides recommend that snowshoers use poles. On a snowshoeing trail or in the backcountry, you never know what features lurk below the snow; you can expect to encounter at least one log to step over, snow potholes, sideslopes, deep snow and ups and downs. Poles provide additional stability in these situations. Plus, the poles provide a measure of upper body exercise, assuring a well-rounded workout. Lower Photo: Smuggler's Notch family
The Canmore Nordic Centre in Alberta, Canada opened for cross country skiing (XC) Oct. 23 and staged a race a few days later. This is a very early date for XC in the northern hemisphere and they were able to do it because they have snowmaking, a legacy from the 1988 Olympics in Alberta.
More and more XC ski areas are investing in snowmaking. Trapp Family Lodge steeped in tradition in Stowe, VT is included in this ever increasing list of XC ski resort snowmakers. The list of XC ski area operators that produce machine-made snow is now at about 30 ski areas including Rikert Nordic Center, Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Sleepy Hollow Inn, and Mountain Top Resort, in VT; Bretton Woods Nordic Center, and Great Glen Trails in NH, Pineland Farms and Quarry Road Rec Area in ME; Weston Ski Track in MA; Cross Country Ski Headquarters in MI; Breckenridge Nordic Center and Frisco Nordic Center in CO; and Royal Gorge in CA.
Why did these XC ski areas decide to invest in a snowmaking operation? The availability of less expensive and portable snowmaking systems are main motivations, but other business-driven issues are relevant too such as filling lodge rooms and fulfilling season pass holders' desire to extend the ski season beyond Mother Nature's whim.
Why did these XC ski areas decide to invest in a snowmaking operation? The availability of less expensive and portable snowmaking systems are main motivations, but other business-driven issues are relevant too such as filling lodge rooms and fulfilling season pass holders' desire to extend the ski season beyond Mother Nature's whim.
One industry consultant dubbed the XC ski resort quandary as "precipitation roulette" 20 years ago. Some business-oriented reasons to install snowmaking include operational security to guarantee skiing programs and staffing; competitive advantage against other XC ski resorts that do not have machine-made snow; and guaranteeing snow cover in important holiday periods (which can represent more than 30 percent of annual winter business).
The necessary elements of a snowmaking operation include cold temperatures, water, power, and system components such as piping, pumps, compressors, and snow guns. The power requires both manpower and energy supplied by electricity or fuel. There are many industry horror stories about the night hours and difficulty of the work associated with snowmaking for XC skiing. Getting the snow to efficiently cover a narrow corridor trail is also a challenge. Many operations simply cover a field and then move the snow to the trails.
Sleepy Hollow Inn's system in Huntington, VT, is powered by solar energy, while snowmakers used machine-made snow to cover trails at Canmore Nordic Centre to run early season programs for racing teams from across North America. Rikert Nordic Center increased from an average of 70 days of operation before snowmaking was added to 140 days without inseason closures!
But the most significant issue to embark on snowmaking has always been the investment required for many XC ski businesses that are small and seasonal. It is now at a point where operators at Mountain Top Resort in Chittenden, VT decided that snowmaking was a higher priority than selling retail products at the XC ski center. Snowmaking supports so many aspects of the business from rental operations and ski lessons to dog sledding and snowshoeing. In terms of the guest perspective, winter guests expect to book travel to a destination and get the experience that was desired…and that includes snow! Who knows, perhaps there will be a day sometime soon when snowmaking will be a basic aspect of XC skiing at commercial resorts. Upper photo XC ski racing in October at Canmore Nordic Center; Lower photo Snowmaking at Rikert Nordic Center.
When it comes to cross country (XC) skiing, the theory of what goes up must come down may be going out of style. Nowadays many people really enjoy the fun of just going downhill on XC skis, but they'd prefer avoiding the need to laboriously trudge uphill to earn that fun. Yeah, the skis have waxless bases that allow you to ski uphill without totally killing yourself, but it's so much easier with the onset of "lift or shuttle-served" XC skiing.
Simply put, lift or shuttle-served XC skiing allows the fun of the downhill with the use of a ski area lift or a shuttle ride so there's no need to "pay the price" of going miles uphill on skis. Of course, there are those who believe that one must earn such fun, but "no pain, no gain" may be a view that's, well a bit fuddyduddy.
At Bretton Woods in New Hampshire's White Mountains there is a $31 High Country lift ticket that gets an XC skier up near the summit to the Mountain Road by way of a chair lift, for a 7 kilometer (km) ski back down. The trail is easy enough and skiers can ski in the groomed tracks or on the flat skate lane, where they can make turns or snowplow.
The Bretton Woods lift ticket provides one ride on the high speed detachable quad (which slows down upon egress) and unlimited use of a T-bar, which is a few kilometers down the trail. The T-bar provides access to upper elevations of Mount Stickney and the Stickney Cabin, which has snacks, beverages and a place to hang out with indoor seating or outside by a stone fireplace. Skiing back to the Mountain Road offers some choices including a groomed trail or skiing through the glades (trees) with options for different levels of difficulty. The Mountain Road is one of the most fun trails to be had on XC skis in New England!
In the northwest at 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort there is a lift-served XC ski trail called the Summit Trail that is accessed near the top of Chewelah Peak. It descends and winds around the mountain for 12 km. On a clear day one can see all the way to Montana from the trail and many animal tracks or an occasional moose might be seen. It is a 2,000 foot decline in elevation but not all downhill though.
Other XC ski trails that are accessed by chair lifts can be found at Giants Ridge in MN with a free lift ride when you purchase a trail pass to access the 6 km Bronze Trail, the 6 km Summit Trail, or the 14 km Gold Trail. Boyne Mountain in MI has the Cold Springs Downhill trail. Royal Gorge in the Tahoe, CA area has two surface ski lifts for practicing downhill turns and also having accelerated fun.
At Garnet Hill Lodge, in North River, NY there's a shuttle ride from the bottom of a long downhill back to the lodge that has been offered since the early eighties. It originated when the lodge owner picked up skiers in his car and was then upgraded to a van and now it's a mini-bus. The shuttle is a free service for the skiers at Garnet Hill Lodge. Skeirs must sign up for the shuttle and there are many routes that skiers can take using intermediate rated trails to reach the two pick-up locations that have a 500 foot and 900 foot vertical drop, respectively. Shuttles are offered daily and 3-5 times a day on weekends and holidays. During the week and on slow times, the shuttle is offered on demand.
The Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH is adjacent to the Mt. Washington Auto Road and offers an uphill ride to achieve "treeline status" in the SnowCoach, which is a tracked van. The comfortable heated tour takes folks to the 4,000 foot elevation up Mount Washington where the views are breathtaking. Intermediate and advanced skiers can handle skiing down this road as a thrilling four mile decent back to the base lodge. There are various price options for the SnowCoach.
Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont has a free shuttle on the weekends that delivers skiers to the Highland Lodge for a 20 km return trek. There's a net drop of about 300 meters on the groomed trail, which traverses hill top pastures, farmsteads, and quaint Vermont villages. A shorter 5 km shuttled ride brings skiers back to the lodge from Craftsbury Village at the general store and deli.
One might wonder that if the downhill ski run is the objective, why not simply go alpine skiing? The trails above are cross country ski experiences. They all require kick and glide techniques across some flat terrain and they do not have the consistent and necessary steepness for alpine skiing. As lift and shuttle services become more popular, they'll be available at more ski areas but until that happens, you'll have to seek out areas that offer this service if you want this level of fun on XC skis.
You might save money by giving your kids outdated and hand-me-down cross country ski equipment, a heavy nylon parka, and a fur-lined cap with earflaps, but this gear will increase your kids' chance of having a rotten time while cross country (XC) skiing.
Improper equipment may be too heavy, cause blisters, and expose kids to frostbite. Too much or too heavy ski clothing (often used by alpine skiers when they go XC skiing) will lead to a common but misguided perspective: that is, XC skiing is tiring and "too much work." Dress correctly and get equipped properly and XC skiing can be a blast.
Poorly equipped kids won't be able to glide, turn, or stop as quickly as their appropriately outfitted friends. They may have trouble getting the skis to grip while going up hills. How much fun is that?
Use the tips in this article to get properly fitted equipment and clothing for children, whether it's brand-new or previously used. As they grow out of gear and clothing, pass them on to another child but make sure that it is appropriately sized for the one receiving the hand-me-down. Some shops have buy-back, trade-in, or long-term rental plans for children's gear, so check with ski shops in your area.
The Right Gear
Waxless skis are great for kids and even toddlers can enjoy a stroll on wide plastic XC skis that they can strap on to their regular snow boots. Make sure the boots fit well and feel as comfortable as a pair of sneakers. Sizing XC skis has changed so you can have short skis that are both very maneuverable and provide long glides. Use the "paper test" to see if a particular pair of skis supports your weight effectively for both gripping on the uphills and gliding on the flat terrain or downhills. Here's how to do it: On a hard floor surface, you should be able to slide a piece of paper under the skis when you stand evenly weighted on both of the ski centers. When all of your weight is applied to one ski at a time, the paper should be unable to slide.
Light layers of clothing should help you feel comfortable and you can always remove a layer if you get too hot while going uphills. A lightweight synthetic base layer of long underwear helps to keep you dry and transport any perspiration away. A middle layer that provides insulation such as a shirt or sweater with a jacket shell on the outer layer works great. Don't forget a headband or light hat and a pair of appropriate gloves (not alpine ski gloves) that are made for movement.
Make sure XC skiing is fun for the child; this means avoiding strenuous hills and scary out-of-control downhill runs. The key is for your child to have a positive experience on the first few XC ski outings. It may be easier (and a good decision) to have your child begin with a qualified instructor in a class with other kids. After the lesson, join him or her for an easy family XC ski to a nearby destination.
XC ski areas often have special terrain or incentives for kids. Trail Tracker is a scavenger hunt at Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH, which is a big hit for kids to track down cartoon animals out on the trails. When they find the animated creatures, they stamp a card and upon return to the lodge they get a treat.
Methow Valley, WA has storybook trails that feature 1 km loops that have sign-sized illustrated story book pages on panels displayed along select trails for kids to read as they ski or snowshoe.
Smuggler's Notch in VT has an XC ski lesson for kids, which happens in a special terrain park that has snowy roller bumps and other features for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis.
Bring some chocolate treats, talk about animal tracks, and encourage your child. Make it about more than skiing, and it can give you many years of quality family time and memories cross country skiing with your children.
The winter and snow cover are leaving us, so what do we do with ski equipment?
1) Cleaning: Use wax remover and Fiber wipe to clean the kick zone and also the glide zone.
2) Use the finest Steel or Copper brush to clean excess dirt from base.
3) Apply layer of Start Base (or Service or soft non-fluoro glider like SG2) to glide zones.
4) While wax is still soft use scraper with low pressure to "hot wipe" wax and further dirt away.
5) Follow with Fiber wipe and then finest steel brush again to remove dirt while refreshing base further. Repeat steps 4 and 5 as necessary until no more dirt is seen coming from base.
6) If you suspect your skis have any base damage (i.e. base sealing) consider having the skis stoneground to reveal a fresh base in the spring before summer storage. A fresh base is the most import feature in a skis ability to hold wax and to glide. Ski shops in most every ski town offer great stone grinding services.
7) Once you have a clean and refreshed base it is time to saturate the base with a summer storage wax. In the glide zones melt in a thick layer of Start Base (or Service or soft non-fluoro glider like SG2) and let it cool. If all the wax has been absorbed into the base at any point add another layer on to. Let cool leave it on the ski all summer.
8) Skis should be storage in cool, dry place, out of sunlight and not near heating elements nor not near the roof where temperature can rise over 50C degrees. Skis should be stored loosely strapped with no pressure on camber so that there is no risk that heat and pressure can alter any of the skis camber characteristics.
9) Better to do something than nothing. So at the very, very least crayon your softest glide onto your glide zones right now.
Article contributor Andy Gerlach in Sun Valley, ID knows his stuff –he's with SkiPost and Start Wax at http://www.skipost.com/
Every pregnancy guide book and website will tell you that it's very important to exercise during your pregnancy. Exercise will help to keep your body loose and supple, leaving you much more well equipped to deal with the strains and stresses of late pregnancy and, ultimately, labor. What those same books and websites are hazy about though, are exactly which sports and exercise you should be undertaking: if you have always been into cross country (XC) skiing, can you continue to ski during pregnancy?
XC Skiing During Pregnancy
The simple answer is that yes, provided you have the approval of your doctor, you are able to enjoy XC skiing during early pregnancy. If you are not a regular and expert XC skier then your pregnancy is definitely not a good time to take up the sport; it is important that you are able to balance and feel there is a minimal risk of falling during your ski, as it is any fall or bump that has the potential to be damaging to your baby.
Perhaps you can check out some skiing videos and read some snow reports before you hit the slopes, to consider how you feel about enjoying your favorite winter sport while you're pregnant? Some women find even seeing skiing makes them feel so concerned that they are unable to enjoy themselves like they usually do.
Even if you are an experienced and regular XC skier, there are some precautions you should take if you decide to hit the snow whilst pregnant. Try not to overexert yourself too much: take things slower and less enthusiastically than you might have previously. Pay attention to your body and how you're feeling; don't push through any twinges or shortness of breath. Sit down and take a short rest instead!
Many women will choose to stop skiing at around the fifth month of their pregnancy because this is when most women find they really notice their baby bumps and they begin to feel cumbersome. When your bump is large it will also affect your center of gravity, which could in turn increase your risk of experiencing a fall. You shouldn't be concerned about the higher altitude of your ski destination affecting your baby however; this is a widely reported myth! Plenty of babies are born at higher altitudes, and the change in oxygen levels will have no effect on your unborn child.
Finally, because every pregnancy and every woman is different, ensure you discuss your plans with your doctor before you continue with your current exercise regime. That way, he or she will be able to tell you of any risks posed to your own particular circumstances. But if you are a healthy woman having a normal healthy pregnancy then there should be no reason not to enjoy a leisurely ski.
Postpartum XC Skiing
Postpartum exercise is beneficial for new moms, both mentally and physically. Depending on the type of child birth you experience, most new moms are given the all clear to begin exercising again at around a month to six weeks after their baby is born.
Once you are given the okay to exercise, there's no reason why you can't return to XC skiing! Just take it slowly and make sure you don't overexert yourself. It is unlikely that you will be able to go straight back into your pre-baby routine; instead set yourself small challenges to work your way of to your pre pregnancy fitness levels. Don't extend your joints to the point where it causes pain or stretch too excessively. Post-partum women will find their joints and ligaments are much softer for the first couple of months following the birth of their child, so it is important to be aware of this and avoid hurting yourself.
By following these few simple tips, there is no reason not to enjoy XC skiing during your pregnancy and after the birth of your baby. Why not get your skis on and find out for yourself?
Nordic sit-skiing gives a taste of freedom to a person with mobility limitations to access snow covered trails, fields, and cross country (XC) ski areas that cover the north country. People such as wounded warriors or accident victims, who have mobility impairments can experience the benefits of XC skiing…that is, getting outdoors in the natural environment, feel the confidence associated with physical and mental fitness and wellness, and enjoy the freedom to travel over snow as far as they can go.
Sit-skis are the adaptive equipment for folks in a wheel chair (spinal cord injuries) and for those with leg injuries or amputations. There are different kinds of equipment designs to support a wide variety of users such as people with and without legs, people of different sizes, and so on. Sit-skiers use short poles in the range of 100-130cm long. Those with one lower leg amputation are encouraged to participate in a standing position, so they might utilize the same equipment as able-bodied participants.
Sit-ski equipment consists of an ultra-light weight plastic or carbon fiber bucket supported by an aluminum alloy frame that clips into a pair of XC skis. The ski poles are shortened to accommodate the seat height and the skier double poles for a cross country ski experience.
So how much work is XC skiing for a mobility impaired person? The skis glide efficiently and the biggest challenge is steep hills. Most sit-skiers start on flat terrain and become accustomed to double poling to propel the equipment forward. Beginner trails at commercial XC ski areas provide optimal terrain for a sit-skier to practice and see if XC skiing is right for him or her. As in any endeavor, practice and repetition helps to develop the muscles and body parts that are needed. But the first time sit-skier should expect to have some arm soreness for a couple of days afterward.
It is a good idea to take a lesson and rent sit-ski equipment at the start to try it and see if XC skiing is something that feels right. There are dozens of different sit-ski designs with regard to attachment to the skis, but there are only a few manufacturers of the equipment. Some sit-ski models clip right on any XC ski with an SNS binding and others bolt permanently and require tools to change skis. You would be able to change skis depending upon snow conditions if you have the clip-on model sit-ski. The length of the ski selected will vary based on the skier's weight and it is good to start beginners on shorter skis for easier maneuverability. A sit-skier wants to minimize the ski base friction and narrower skis are generally faster than wider skis.
There are only a few XC ski areas that have sit-ski equipment to use including Vermont's Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton and Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Other areas with programs in the northeast include Pinelands Farm in New Gloucester, Maine and Weston Ski Track in Mass. (both of these areas have snowmaking). Most often an introduction to sit-skiing is through programs. Such organized programs across the country are in Minnesota, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, and in Sun Valley, Idaho. For a list of program contacts check out http://findaclub.usparalympics.org/ and do an advanced search for winter sports and XC skiing.
A sit-ski beginner usually has his/her equipment prepared for him/her ahead of time by the instructor. A sit-skier applies downward pressure in order to move forward and wants to get everything lined up to make the movement efficient and take full advantage of their functioning muscles.
As you might imagine, hills are a challenge for sit-skiers and the key is to avoid steep uphill terrain. Backsliding on gentle terrain is less of an issue although on a steep incline there is always a point of no return. Since your sole source of energy is double-poling and you cannot side step or herring bone, you are at the mercy of physics and at some point you simply cannot climb. Beginning sit-skiers are taught a safety procedure for bailing out on a backwards descent.
Patrick Standen of the Northeast Disabled Athletic Association commented, "A person could chose whatever ski set up works best for them, their adapted equipment, and the terrain they use. I have some buddies who backcountry in the Sierra Nevada's, who sit-ski up mountains with skins, but they are seasoned skiers." In general, it is recommended that sit-skiers go out with a companion who can help push them up hills.
"Specifically, the double-poling motion and cadence changes as you approach and begin to climb hills by becoming shorter and more rapid until, if needed, you are "ice-picking" or pulling yourself up one carefully planted pole pull at a time. It can be arduous but it is a total upper body workout and a great cardio pump."
Nordic skiing offers peace in the wilderness and feeds personal wellness and hopefully more persons with mobility impairments will discover that they can use ski-skis to attain this experience of beauty and tranquility.
Photo o Patrick Standen on the sit ski
I just got back from a weekend in the Mt. Washington Valley in New Hampshire's White Mountains and the report is that the trail conditions were great. This had been a good start to the winter season and there had been a few snow storms that provided great trail cover in the region, but now an epic rainstorm and extended warm up were forecast.
Case in point, the Jackson Ski Touring Center received three feet of snow in December. During the winter break between Christmas and New Year's Day, the number of skiers reported at Jackson had increased by 15 percent over last year's numbers. Overall, skier visits were up and the conditions made for excellent skiing and snowshoeing. Jackson Ski Touring Center Executive Director Thom Perkins said, "Even with some recent rain, there is still plenty of snow on the ground here in Jackson." And I can personally confirm that snow.
The weekend started on Saturday with a visit to Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH. It rained most of the time that we were out on the trails; all right, some might call it torrential downpour. But the snow was very skiable, not too soft or slushy. There were some very wet areas on the trails (called ponding) that we could easily ski around and avoid. We were in the leeward side of the mighty Mt. Washington and we got soaked but we were comfortable in the well-designed forested trails and never felt any wind from the storm. One skier in my group was a first timer and he had no problem with the weather or the ski conditions. I had intended to take the SnowCoach up the Mt. Washington Toll Road to the 4,000 foot elevation and ski back down, but the weather prohibited that idea so it will have to happen on a future trip to Great Glen.
The next day my wife and I skied at Bear Notch Ski Touring Center on trails that were scenic and comfortable (little up hill on our outing). Perhaps it was the soft snow that allowed us to scoot up the tracks with little effort. We were passed by a skijoring couple, each being towed up the trail by a Siberian Huskey leashed to a harness.
Part of the trails we skied at both Great Glen and Bear Notch were along brooks. Upon my comment to my wife that I enjoyed skiing along while hearing the water flow nearby, I learned that there are some people that claim such running water makes them want to tinkle. You're never too old to learn things.
We stayed at a country inn called the Christmas Farm Inn just up the hill from downtown Jackson, New Hampshire, which is a quintessential New England town with the white steeple church. This town, is home of the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation and it is a Mecca for cross country skiers. Jackson has also been cited as one of the more romantic destinations for travelers. Skiers can don their skis and hit the more than 150 kilometers of trails right out the door of their lodging almost anywhere in town. The Foundation operates under a Special-Use Permit with the White Mountain National Forest, and with the cooperation of 75 private landowners, and the Village of Jackson.
While at the Christmas Farm Inn, we dined on a fine dinner and breakfast and scheduled massages at the inn's Aveda Concept Spa. The inn is a classic country inn seemingly out of the movie White Christmas, and it is believed that it was originally built in 1778. We stayed in the Carriage House, which is the inn's newest facility that houses the spa and is nearby to the indoor pool and fitness center.
On Monday morning, we stayed in Jackson and skied in glorious sunshine on the Ellis River Trail, which is rolling terrain along the West Bank of the Ellis River. The Waffle Cabin is an easy destination for skiers to reach about 3 kilometers up the trail from the Jackson Ski Touring Center lodge. We took some photos and had a great return ski, again along the babbling river, which was full of water from the previous rainstorm. This trail is a special place for my family because it is where my wife fell in love with cross country skiing. Hopefully, I had something to do with it, but there was also a chipmunk that crossed her ski path on that day in 1986. We've also skied the Ellis River Trail with our kids and have savored our family memories on that trail.
All in all, it was a great three days on the trails in the Mt. Washington Valley and the moral of the story is that people should check the snow conditions reports before deciding that a rain storm or warm weather necessarily ruins cross country skiing trails. The weather may have been the reason that we saw so few other skiers on the trails. If they only knew the great trail conditions that they were missing!
Photo of two skiers behind Jackson Ski Touring Center lodge
Try before you buy - many XC ski areas conduct demo days to give skiers an opportunity to test drive the newest XC ski equipment. It's a day when product suppliers' branded tents and flags are flapping in the wind and company reps stand guard armed with knowledge of their wares.
You might participate in a demo because you have outdated gear (national statistics say that XC skis are 17 years old on average) and want to test new and different equipment to replace your old clunkers. Or you might just want to experience the advantages of the new gear. A pair of XC skis can be as high as $500 for premium models, so it makes great sense to try some different skis, ski categories, and brands to find something that best fits you.
Depending on how organized the demo is, you might need a credit card and/or identification for security but remember to also bring an open mind. The rep will ask you about your skiing ability and interests. If you're an intermediate skier who gets out on the trails four times a winter it is very different from a skier who hits the trails every weekend and can fly on skate skis. Give the rep an accurate description of your skiing prowess and interests so he or she can make a recommendation for you.
If you need a new set up and want to use a product demo to help make the decision about what to buy, do some homework before going to the demo. Talk with a knowledgeable ski shop employee who XC skis. Be wary of the alpine ski shop that limits its XC ski products to a dark or dusty back corner of the store. Find a reputable XC ski shop that sells multiple models among a few different brands of XC skis. Check out some company brand websites or other general XC ski-oriented websites.
When at the demo, get the right size skis for your weight and ski on them for about 15 minutes. Find some uphill and downhill trails to see how the skis perform. Do the skis hold going uphill or do you have to fight to prevent backsliding? Are some skis easier to turn than others? Does the glide seem to extend or do the skis slow down quickly? If you don't know what to look for while testing, ask the rep for some tips.
It is recommended to stay in the same category of skis when testing, so if you're trying a recreational waxless ski from one brand, test a similar ski and price point from a different brand before switching to a different kind of skis.
Of course, there are two different XC ski boot/bindings available and if you don't use the same system on the different skis that you're testing, you'll have to change boots to ski the other boot/binding system.
Rossignol rep Will Masson commented about the advantage of demoing with the NIS binding, "The NIS system allows you to move the binding on the ski to 7 different positions so you can fine tune your grip and glide position on the skis. The binding starts out at the balance point position and moves forward 1.5 cm and back 1.5 cm to customize your weight distribution on a particular ski. This can only be achieved when using the NIS system.
There is a graph that shows the benefits of moving the binding forward and back on the plate for skating and classic. A customer might be right between a 176 cm and a 186 cm ski on the recommended weight chart. That customer can be put on the longer ski to enhance the glide, and then the binding would be moved forward to maximize their grip on that longer ski. Advantages are like fine tuning a driver in golf, or a handlebar stem height on a bike, or strings in a tennis racquet. With other Nordic binding systems once you mount the binding you are stuck in that position!"
XC ski boots are a very important aspect of XC skiing comfort and it makes great sense to ski on some different brands. Do you want your boots to feel like a comfortable sneaker or do you desire the substantial support of a stiff sole? Is the toe box area of the boot creasing in a comfortable spot when you're skiing? Do your heels rise when you lift your foot? Is the boot too tight or too loose? Should you get custom insoles for your boots to make your feet feel more comfortable?
Have you tried XC ski poles recently? Ski poles have different grip straps that are easier to use and you may find that they are more comfortable and effective than traditional ski pole straps. Sunglasses are a great item to test. Do they fog up when you get sweaty? Do they feel so tight that you might get a headache? Are interchangeable lenses available for times of low light or bright sun?
Dedicate part of your ski day to the demo and try more than a few skis, poles, and boots. It should be fun and then you can make informed decisions when you purchase your next set of XC ski equipment and you'll feel great that you bought the perfect gear. For a nationwide demo day and introduction to XC skiing and snowshoeing click Winter Trails. Check the XCSkiResorts.com What's Happening Page for some demo day listings or contact a XC ski area near you to see when they will conduct their next demo day. SIA Photo of SIA Nordic Demo at Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa
Biathlon is now on target at many XC ski areas across the country. The sport of biathlon combines cross country (XC) skiing and target shooting. The roots of biathlon are traced to Scandinavia in the mid 1700's, and currently in Europe it is the most popular winter sport attracting 700 million annual television viewers. XC ski areas in the US are now offering programs with real 22 caliber biathlon rifles, laser rifles, and even paintball markers (guns).
Biathletes race 5 kilometers (3 miles) on XC skis before shooting a rifle at five targets 50 meters (164 feet or 54 yards) away. They have a pounding heart and shaking legs with cold fingers and must take five shots. It may be cold and snowy while the sport entails concentration for precision rifle marksmanship. The competition includes shooting from a standing position and a prone (lying down) position. Depending upon the venue, the penalty for a missed shot may be a one minute added on the competitor's time or skiing a penalty lap.
The Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid, NY has scheduled biathlon lessons on 32 selected dates December-March, with experienced instructors where skiers can head out to the range under careful supervision. The "Be a Biathlete" program is on the actual shooting range used by Olympic athletes in the 1998 Olympics held in Lake Placid. The "Discover Biathlon" program and package for $55 includes a one-hour ski lesson and use of a rifle at the biathlon shooting range. Skiers can pay $16 for a shooting only one-hour session where they are informed about safety before they go to the range.
In a similar program at Soldier Hollow Cross Country Ski Resort in Midway, UT you will be provided with ten clips of five shots each, for plenty of opportunity to learn and improve. The highly accurate rifles are the very same rifles used during the Olympic Games held in Utah in 2002. After range instruction and practice, a "mini' fun competition is staged for participants. Programs are coordinated by reservation for minimum of two people, who can ski or snowshoe and there are three program levels starting at $29 for adults and $19 for kids.
In the spirit of this Olympic year, Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center in Truckee, CA announced a new Junior Biathlon program led by former US biathlon team member Tom McElroy. This program will be an introduction to the winter Olympic sport for children in second through eighth grade.
Biathlon was first adopted as an Olympic sport in 1955 and "competitions were held at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley," said Sally Jones, manager of Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center, which is just around Lake Tahoe from the original site of the Sqauw Valley Olympics. Children who participate in the new program will be coached to improve their skiing skills and also learn marksmanship and gun safety using specially designed, 100-percent safe, laser biathlon rifles.
Tahoe Donner also has new biathlon clinics for adults and children interested in learning about the sport of biathlon. After range instruction and a brief background on biathlon history, participants will get a chance to ski or snowshoe a short loop and then practice their skills trying to hit targets with an elevated heart rate. This is a 1.5-hour clinic is $30 and scheduled on Dec. 22, Jan. 5, and 12, Feb. 8 and 17.
Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden, VT initiated the Paintball Biathlon, which brings the aspects of biathlon to 250 kids in a one day event to ski and target shoot with paintball markers (guns). For the ski area, using paintball is a less expensive way to host biathlon. Skiers in paintball biathlon are rewarded with time deductions for each target they hit. Midway through each lap, the skiers visit the shooting range where identically sighted paintball markers (guns) await them to take their shots before skiing off for another lap. The event draws youngsters from across the region and is geared to have fun on snow. It has introduced the sport to kids and some of them are now participating more seriously in high school biathlon teams.
Other XC ski areas with biathlon programs The Nordic Heritage Sport Club Center in Presque Isle, ME will hold the International Youth/Junior World Championships for Biathlon on Feb 28-Mar 7 and US Team Trials for the competition will be on Dec 28-30. At Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone, MT it's a cornerstone of winter activity and there is a free "Try Biathlon Day" on Jan 4. There's also paintball biathlon in Gunstock, NH, Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, MT, and other programs at Blackhawk, WI, Sun Valley, ID and Anchorage, AK. Check Google or other web search service for a biathlon club or program in your area. Photo: Biathlete Lesson; ORDA Dave Schmidt
There was extensive coverage about fat bikes in the media last year (it's hot) and there's a photograph of a person riding a fat bike towing a Christmas tree on the cover of this year's Patagonia Holiday Catalog. Fat bikes were recently dubbed the "Hummers of the two-wheelers' world" in the Wall Street Journal. These specially-made bicycles that accommodate ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure less than ten pounds of pressure allow fat bikes to roll over soft, slippery surfaces like snow. XC ski areas from Vermont to Michigan and Arizona to California and Washington are now allowing fat bikes also called snow bikes to be used on their groomed trails and offering rental bikes, too.
Fat bikes are one of the fastest growing segments of the bicycle industry. There were 10,000 fat bikes sold since 2010. They provide a great way for cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season. In eastern Washington's Methow Valley Sports Trails (MVSTA) the winter season can be longer than all other seasons combined and it was one of the first trail networks to embrace fat biking. They saw it as a new, exciting way to get outside and recreate and for the passionate XC skier interested in fitness, it provides another way to cross-train. Last winter, there were 500 rentals with only 16 fat bikes at Methow Cycle & Sport and this was an increase of 60% above the previous year.
Fat bike products are available from companies such as Surlybikes.com and Salsacycles.com and even the mainstream company Trekbikes.com among others.
According to a recent survey by the Cross County Ski Areas Association there are at least 28 of the XC ski areas, which now welcome fat bikes on their trails. Flagstaff Nordic Center outside of Flagstaff, AZ is running a snowmobile on 25 km of the snowshoe trails to accommodate fat bikes. The bikes ride much better on packed trails compared to riding on soft snow. Fat bikes can be rented at Flagstaff Nordic for $35 on weekends plus a $10 trail fee, and they offer a 40% discount on weekdays ($20) while charging a lower trail fee on weekdays ($7), too.
One avid snow biker describes the thrill of riding his fat bike in the winter as, "Riding on snow has been a great alternative to my other winter love…Nordic skiing. Hopping on the snow bike has been a great way to mix up the winter activities. There's an amazing sensation when you climb aboard a snow bike and find that you "can" ride where only skiers or snowmobilers had once been able to go!" Surveys show that 71% of fat bikes were introduced to the sport at a demo, borrow, or rent the bike that they are riding. And 64% of the fat bikers said they would pay to ride on groomed trails.
Fat bike trail offerings are assessed on a day-by-day, snow conditions, user compatibility basis. Information on the trails that are open to fat bikes is available daily on the MVSTA grooming report. Just like a skier, a valid MVSTA day pass will be required for snow bikes.
Fat bikes are available for rent ranging from $10 at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, Vermont to $20 during the week at Flagstaff Nordic reaching $75 a day at New World Sport, a Fort Collins, Colo, shop that sends riders to local packed snowshoe and XC ski trails. It's $55 at Village Sports Shop in Lyndonville, VT and they suggest rider use the bikes on the nearby Kingdom Trails, where there are bikes to rent, too. Methow Cycle and Sport in Winthrop, WA has a $35 half day rate or $55 for a full day. They have rental bikes at the store and on site near 5 km of trails at nearby Sun Mountain Lodge. Reservations are recommended for weekends and holidays. Methow Cycle and Sport will also provide rack adaptors for customers who wish to transport rental fat bikes to the riding area of their choice. Other XC ski areas that have fat bikes on location to rent include Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, Mich at $15 per hour and California areas with fat bikes include Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure and Royal Gorge where there are 10 km of trails available and rentals for $20 per hour.
As one might imagine the price for purchasing a fat bike ranges greatly from a low-end of $200 (at Walmart) to $2,000-6,000). Like any other equipment the low end is probably less reliable and the high end includes bells and whistles or are built with carbon fiber construction.
Currently, the issues for fat bikers include skier/biker relations and conflicts, variable and changing snow conditions, impact on trails, and building fat bike-specific trails. Fat bike riders are asked to follow a code of etiquette because they can damage trails groomed for classic and skate XC skiers. A typical list of XC ski area "conditions of use" include:
* Riders need to purchase a trail pass to use the area's trails and tell the ticket vendor that they are planning on fat biking.
* Trail access is dependent on conditions and they should check the daily grooming report for detailed trail access information.
* Purpose built snow bikes only! Both tires must be wider than 3.7" and tire pressure must be less than 10 psi, no exceptions!
* Bikes should yield to all other users. Stay to right side of trail at all times, stay out of the classic ski tracks, and give skate skiers a wide berth. * Stay off trails with more than 3" of new snow.
* If you are leaving a rut deeper than an inch, having a hard time riding in a straight line, or pushing your bike, the snow is too soft and you absolutely should not be biking on the trails.
* Be an ambassador for the sport – stay polite, educate other bikers, discourage bad behavior, follow the rules, and we'll all have a good time this winter.
* Stay on trails designated for Fat Biking.
The biggest disparity between going cross country (XC) skiing on your own through the woods and XC skiing at a commercial XC ski area is trail conditions. Trail grooming at commercial XC ski areas (that charge a trail fee) refers to using a vehicle with attachments to rework the snow to provide consistent ski and trail conditions.
A compacted trail surface with set tracks will help skis to glide forward with minimal energy loss so that skiing is easier, beginners can learn to ski under control more quickly, and skiers can go further more efficiently. Icy trail conditions can be renovated and made skiable, and trails with little snow can be made skiable and last longer. Other important grooming situations include packing new snow to decrease wind susceptibility and conditioning deeper snow pack on high traffic trails, instruction areas, and down hills.
According to the "Cross Country USA Ski Area Development Manual" by Nordic Group International, "Good trail grooming is somewhere between a craft and an art," but the most prevalent factors to grooming the XC ski area trails include the snow conditions, temperature, humidity and exposure, the type and size of vehicle and attachments, and operator skills.
Chris Meyers of Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, MT spoke with XCSkiResorts.com about his 26 years of trail grooming commenting, "For the skier, you want it to be easy to ski and you don't want it icy." He goes out before sunrise when the humidity is lowest and it is coldest for his grooming to get better compaction of the snow. Also, there're no skiers on the trails at that time. As the sun comes out, the trails set up.
In general, ski trail groomers use a snowmobile or a large snowcat and each has its benefits and detriments. To the ski area operator, the significant issues include the cost of acquiring the grooming vehicle, the cost of fueling and maintaining the vehicle, depreciation, and finding a reliable skilled groomer (operator).
"Snocats" are big tractors with treads, which employ front and rear attachments (such as snowblade, tiller, powdermaker, compactor, or tracksetter) to rework the snow. Doug Edgerton of Yellowstone Track Systems and distributor of the Ginsu Groomer shared information with XCSkiResorts.com about the cost of trail grooming saying, "The big vehicles can cost $200,000 for a new one, but many ski area operators purchase used grooming vehicles and attachments. Running a large vehicle could cost in the range of $75-100 per hour. Gasoline alone can be about $25 per hour. Smaller snowmobiles with attachments that are used for trail grooming can cost between $12-14,000."
Snow farming is used by many ski area operators to retain snow, create cache sites in drift areas and shovel snow for later redistribution. Wet areas can be covered in hay bales or hay over plywood to hold the snow. Snow fencing can be mounted on skis and towed to different trails to catch the snow during snowstorms.
Front blades on a snocat are used to move snow around and borrow it from trail edges or caches. Tillers are used to break up ice, crust, and ski-compacted snow. Snow rollers can pack the snow to prevent it from blowing away or melting too quickly. Of course, more areas are now investing in snowmaking to produce machine-made snow that has to be moved and conditioned on the trails.
The Jackson Ski Touring Center recently upgraded their fleet of snow grooming tractors with the addition of a brand new $175,000 state-of-the-art Kassborher PB 100 grooming vehicle, which was added a new grooming implement to supplement their early season grooming fleet. The new PB 100 grooming vehicle incorporates the latest in grooming technology and Jackson's former Executive Director Thom Perkins said, "Over the years, we've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing the surface of the trails to be able to groom with the first snow of the season. Skiers can be assured that with this new equipment, our crew will be able to provide even better skiing."
All in all, we have the trail groomers to thank for XC ski trails that are consistent, safe, and fun to ski. Photos: Maplelag Resort, MN (Top) Snocat trail groomer and (lower) snowmobile with rolling compactor.
Skijoring is a Norwegian word that means "skidriving." A team of one or more dogs pulls an xc skier and the skier "drives" or directs the team as he or she skis behind. In Scandinavia, skijoring has been done for centuries and it is gaining popularity in the US. It's easy to learn and can lead to magical winter days for you and your canine friend. Skijoring will help keep your dog fit and healthy and it can deepen and enhance the relationship that you have with your dog. Learning to work with your dog and become a team is a great reward that skijoring has to offer.
The human aspect of skijoring requires skiing ability, dog training, and handling skills. Any XC ski gear can be used for skijoring and classic or skating ski techniques can be used. The type of ski selected depends on the experience that your desire such as how fast you want to ski and how far you want to go. Expect that a fast running dog on a groomed ski trail will be very quick and skating might be the best choice.
If you are new to XC skiing, it is recommended that you take ski lessons and practice prior to trying skijoring with your dog. Ski ability requires that you are able to control your speed, stop, and keep balance. But as previously mentioned, skijoring is a team activity and you should expect to work as hard as your dog. It is not a FREE RIDE!
Dog training and handling skills are equally important so it is useful if you and your dog have participated in an obedience class together. Key elements include being positive, patient, and consistent. Positive reinforcement is important with any animal training and short easy sessions will yield great results. You want to feel successful and gain confidence together.
No matter the breed (above 30 pounds), dogs have a strong instinct to chase, run on a trail, or hunt as a pack. While sometimes this instinct can result in unwanted behavior, when carefully shaped and trained, it also enables your dog to pull. One of the easiest ways to teach your dog skijoring is hooking him/her up with an experienced skijoring or sled dog team. Another method that works is to have someone ski slightly in front of your dog and call it, while you let it pull you.
Some dogs may learn immediately and others may take a little more work and encouragement, but keep things in perspective.
Dogs need adequate water and it is recommended not to run them on a full stomach. They can overheat in warmer temperatures (above 40 degrees) and dogs with thin coats (such as pointers) can get too cold. You might consider dog booties for abrasive snow conditions (may take some getting used to) and for furry footed dogs, you should trim the hair on their paws or use oils (Musher's Secret) to prevent snowballs. If your dog is not regularly exercised, start with very short sessions and work up from there. Consult a veterinarian for advice about ideal running weight for the breed of dog that you own.
The gear for skijoring is lightweight and simple. Booties have already been mentioned and a harness is necessary to connect you with the dog. A webbed harness when pulled to complete length stretches from your dog's neck and chest to the base of his/her tail. A good fitting harness should allow a dog to run and pull efficiently and safely. It is best to have an experienced and knowledgeable skijorer help to fit your dog's first harness. A bungee lead (a leash with a bungee cord sewn inside of it) is useful to prevent jerking motions and ease the stress of pulling on your dog. You will also have a harness around your hips and legs and these come in a variety of styles that should fit so that you can move and ski efficiently. A safety release between your harness and the line connecting you to the dog is very important.
Communication and Sharing
When you are ready to go, with a friend in front to encourage your dog, let him/her start pulling and give the command "Let's Go!"
There are many commands you will learn as a skijorer such as "whoa" or stop, "on by" meaning leave that irresistible distraction alone and keep going, "gee" means go right and "haw" means go left. "Come around" means turn around. Taking a class in skijoring will help you get started the right way.
While on the trails with your dog please be aware of trail etiquette. Respect the guidelines at an xc ski area and stay on the dog-friendly trails that are specified. Loose dogs can be an annoyance and even a danger to both skiers and other dogs. Be aware of others on the trail.
Louisa Morrissey teaches skijoring clinics at Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO and at Frisco Nordic Center in Frisco, CO on Jan 25 and Feb 8. Also private lessons with advance reservations are available through the Aspen Animal Shelter. For more info about her programs see www.highcountrydogs.com
Nordic snow pros or ski instructors teach the sport for the same reason to celebrate the community and culture of the sport and to share that experience with as many people as possible. Professional ski and snowboard instructors come in all shapes and sizes and from many different backgrounds. There are part-time and full-time instructors while some prefer teaching beginners, or kids, because they enjoy introducing new people to the sport, others are coaching competitive athletes at the highest level.
PSIA-AASI is the national organization in the USA that offers professional certification and certificate programs for those instructors looking to gain peer-reviewed recognition of their skills and knowledge. PSIA-AASI develops national certification standards with the industry partners that provide the foundation for these credentialing programs. The organization is comprised of regional divisions. As of the end of June 2013 there were 893 certified PSIA-AASI instructors for cross country skiing and 1,801 certified instructors for telemark skiing (usually done at alpine ski areas). Canada has the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI), a similar organization had 781 members in 2012-2013 including 583 xc ski instructors and 236 telemark ski instructors (some members have both certifications). These professional organizations are endorsed by the Cross Country Ski Areas Association and its president Chris Frado, commented, "For the best ski experience possible, take a lesson with a certified ski instructor."
The current PSIA-AASI education/certification standards provide a training focus and represent a minimum competency for each level of certification. There are specific PSIA-AASI manuals about teaching cross country skiing and telemark skiing. CANSI has four certification levels in xc and three in telemark. Certification courses are organized and run by six different regions across Canada, following standards established by the National Technical Committee. Besides regular professional development days, CANSI members have access to a variety of technical material such as a very detailed and comprehensive Instructor Manual, newsletters and videos. Professional members also benefit from a liability insurance coverage when teaching, and enjoy discounts with several industry-leading equipment suppliers.
From professional development to expanding your abilities to share the ski experience with others, to making lifelong friends and memories, PSIA-AASI is devoted to helping you make your time as an instructor as rewarding as possible. PSIA-AASI membership consists of both registered and certified members. Once you join the Association you become a registered member. When you take and pass your Level I, Level II or Level III certification exams, you become a certified member or instructor.
PSIA-AASI provides much more than just a membership; it provides a connection to people who are excited about skiing and sharing that passion with others. And, it provides a connection to sliding on snow that has the power to change lives.
The organization has more than 31,000 total members, hundreds of discount products from official suppliers and the PSIA-AASI Accessories Catalog available to members at a discount. Other membership benefits include attending clinics, attaining nationally recognized certification, online teaching resources and printed technical manuals, PSIA-AASI's magazine 32 Degrees, discounts on products from official suppliers, instructional aid products, and liability insurance coverage.
The costs associated with becoming a certified PSIA-AASI Nordic instructor are about $150 for attending a 2-day event in one of the regions where you would learn the particulars of teaching (covering material in the Nordic ski instruction manual) and $127 annual dues. For example, the PSIA-AASI events in 2012-13 sanctioned by the Eastern Division were held at 13 ski areas in six different states across the region during the winter (3 in VT, 3 in NH, 3 in NY, 2 in ME, 1 in MA, 1 in WV). Attending courses for CANSI can cost $250-300 but this includes the first year of annual membership, which costs $70 per year. If you're interested in sharing the passion of cross country skiing and becoming a certified instructor, contact www.thesnowpros.org or in Canada www.cansi.ca/en/ to find your respective division.
Skiers visiting a commercial cross country ski resort can feel comfortable knowing that if they get injured there is most likely a ski patroller on site during their visit. But who are these patrollers?
Since 1938 the National Ski Patrol (NSP) has served the public and outdoor recreation industry providing education and credentials for emergency care and safety service. The NSP has had a Nordic division since the early 1970s, and these Nordic patrollers provide venue coverage at Nordic ski resorts, services to backcountry enthusiasts by interfacing with the National Forest Service and different park agencies, and can be an integral aspect of local search and rescue groups.
The diverse nature of the Nordic classification lends itself to be a unique program within the NSP. These patrollers who work at ski resorts, in the backcountry, and at alpine ski areas use a variety of equipment types, and know the extended patient care knowledge required and the needed backcountry survival skills. This all contributes to defining what Nordic patrollers do.
Nordic Patrollers are educated with a comprehensive manual and Nordic ski enhancement seminars offered by NSP regional divisions. These are effective tools to build strong confidence and proficiency on the trails. The NSP is standardizing the program throughout the divisions, so the same tools are applied for patrollers to succeed and a quality assurance plan is being put in place to ensure that the NSP members meet high standards.
Mountain Travel and Rescue (MTR) courses provide a variety of skills, including nutrition and how the body performs in a wilderness environment, weather patterns, survival skills, working with group dynamics, an introduction to search and rescue, rope rescue skills, improvised toboggan construction, and land navigation with map, compass, and GPS. The MTR courses are taught in classroom and field sessions including mock scenarios to ensure the attendees can apply what they have learned to real life situations.
Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast looking to expand survival and travel skills in the backcountry environment or a ski patroller preparing for one of the worst possible scenarios a parent can face at a ski area (a lost child), the NSP has a range of training. NSP also covers fundamental principles of avalanche hazard and work with mountain search and rescue groups. Patrollers who operate/recreate in areas that lack appreciable avalanche terrain are trained in navigation, emergency rescue, and even survival skills.
Can there be a more rewarding role on the snow than to help someone in need? To find out more about training programs, membership benefits, regional programs, and credential requirements at the National Ski Patrol, click http://www.nsp.org/
Cross country (xc) skiing is a sport with a very low incidence of injuries for a number of reasons including the low impact nature of xc skiing, low sliding speed, and free heel allows twisting if you fall (the ski boot is connected to the ski binding only at the toe and the heel is free), but there may be some injuries during the ski season in falls or by aggravating pre-existing conditions. Like the Maytag repairman, ski patrollers at xc ski areas are not busiest employees at the xc ski area because they do not have to address many serious skier injuries.
According to Sophia Sauter, a registered physiotherapist, who authored an article in "Active Life Physiotherapy" about 75% of injuries sustained by xc skiers are a result of overuse due to the repetitive nature of skiing, while the remaining 25% are a result of trauma. The following outlines some common injuries and appropriate treatment.
Traumatic xc ski injuries (25%), for example include ankle sprains, thumb sprains, knee ligament sprains, groin muscle strains, and wrist sprains. Upper body injuries are often the result of falling down but since xc skiing speeds tend to be somewhat slow, the impacts are often less severe than impacts at much higher speeds. The recommended treatment for the traumatic injuries is RICE: Relative rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Then, slowly restore range of motion, strength, proprioception (such as the ability to drive using brake, accelerator, and steering wheel without looking at your arms and legs), and power. It's suggested to see a physiotherapist to obtain a proper diagnosis and set of rehabilitative exercises.
Overuse injuries (75%) from xc skiing, for example could include knee pain, compartment syndrome on shins, Achilles tendon problems, rotator cuff and shoulder problems, and low back pain. The recommended treatment for these problems is a bit different. In these cases it's important to correct muscle imbalance (e.g. tight/weak), equipment faults, and possible training errors. Seek medical advice from a physiotherapist or other qualified health professional specializing in injuries common to xc skiers. Most people skip the warm up or preparing for recreational activity altogether, but the best way to avoid injury is prevention. This means utilizing appropriate training progressions, maintaining physical strength, balance, flexibility, adopting appropriate recovery techniques, and treating any lingering individual alignment problems, weaknesses, and imbalances. It makes sense to warm up before hitting the trails. The physiotherapist suggests a full body analysis with a professional to identify individual mechanical inadequacies. Also consider an athlete specific core stability and functional strength program. Popular core-strengthening strategies might include yoga, Pilates, and a regular fitness regimen.
Think about dealing with your injuries before going out on the trails and you can start your next season off right!
Ask the general public to name an alpine skiing “Mecca” — described as a location where people, who share a common interest, yearn to go — even those who don’t ski can come up with at least Aspen or Vail, if not Killington and Sun Valley. But mention the Gunflint Trail or the Methow Valley to cross country (xc) skiers and more often than not, you’ll elicit a blank stare. Yet these are just two of several xc skiing destination resorts that devout xc skiers revere. In fact, each of the following five regions is definitely an “xc skiing Mecca” — each one, a destination that all traveling xc skiers have put on their “must visit” list.
Comprising the small, picturesque towns of Conway, Sugar Hill, Bartlett and Jackson in the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the Mount Washington Valley has a half-dozen xc ski areas, all at the base of the most majestic mountain in the eastern U.S., the 6,288-foot Mt. Washington. Here, the spectacular scenery is enhanced by hundreds of inns, lodges and restaurants, plus unsurpassed outlet shopping. Ski past mountain streams, a white steepled church, or over a wooden covered bridge on the network of 150 kilometers (km) of trails that glide past numerous inns and stores and through the woods in Jackson Village.
Up in Pinkham Notch, Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center features 40 km of trails for cross country or snowshoeing and the more adventurous can take a snowcoach up the Mt. Washington Toll Road to unparalleled views and then make the choice to ski, snowshoe or ride the coach down. On the other side of Mt. Washington, Bretton Woods Nordic Center has its Mountain Road Trail, a 7-km downhill thrill that might be the most fun to be had on xc skis in all of New England. Franconia Inn is tucked away but is known for great cuisine in the evening and more than 50 km of trails. The region also has dog sledding, snowmobiling, zip lines, and 7 alpine ski areas to round out the snow sports offerings.
The Hills are Alive
The “Sound of Music” is more than 50 years old and another production by the Von Trapp family, America’s first xc ski center at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont is just two years younger. Nestled beside Mt. Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak, the lodge is among the most famous and diverse xc ski trail networks in the country. Three Stowe xc ski areas interconnect to provide roughly 150 kilometers of groomed trails, and there’s a link to backcountry ski 14 km to Bolton Valley Nordic Center via the Catamount Trail. Plus, with the variety of trails for snowshoeing around Stowe, it’s no surprise that the quintessential New England village is the original home of Tubbs Snowshoes, the largest snowshoe manufacturer in the world. Stowe's Recreation Path, which runs 5.3 miles along the river (and over 11 wooden bridges) and Route 108 is perfect for an easy snowshoe jaunt. Don't miss the Vermont Ski Museum in downtown Stowe or the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream headquarters (most popular attraction in the state) in nearby Waterbury, Vt.
Scandinavians settled by the thousands in Minnesota so it stands to reason that their national sport, cross country skiing, would abound in the state. The trails in northeastern Minnesota near Grand Marais offers more than 200 kilometers of groomed trails in the Laurentian Highlands adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Here, xc skiers enjoy moose yards, overlook ridges, old trapper trails and railroad beds. The Gunflint attractions include extensive stands of white birch, spruce, and aspen and spectacular cliffs.
Of course, in the land of 10,000 lakes there’s a multitude of frozen lakes and there is also a great chance that visitors in northern Minnesota will see the oscillating luminary curtains in the evening sky known as the Northern Lights. Perfect for those wanting to get away from it all, this area is less populated than other xc Meccas and the region is sprinkled with many isolated lodges, bed and breakfast inns, lakefront cabins, and yurts (large circular heated tents with hard floors, bunk beds and room for 6-8 people). And count on hearing the distant howls of timber wolves.
More than 70 years as a winter sports destination, the Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho, area was developed by railroad mogul, W. Averell Harriman to attract train travelers. Known for its alpine skiing, the area features more than 160 kilometers of trails and now it touts itself as "Nordic Town USA." The Sun Valley Resort includes the Sun Valley alpine ski area, a Nordic ski area on the golf course, and a selection of accommodations. The North Valley Trails run from the Galena Lodge back to town along the river. Expect to see colorful performance striders and skaters alongside snowshoers out walking the dog on this popular avenue.
For superb backcountry skiing amidst forests of pine and aspen, head to the Sawtooth Mountains and its high mountain reaches laced with granite spires and inviting cirques. Here xc skiers can enjoy trekking and guide services, even overnight accommodations in backcountry huts and Mongolian-style yurts.
The Methow Valley in northwest Washington on the eastern slope of the North Cascade Mountains is one of the best kept secrets among xc skiers. A network of 200 kilometers of groomed trails for classic and skate skiing combines at Methow Trails with lodges like Sun Mountain Lodge and warming huts along the trails, which are surrounded by more than a million acres of national wilderness and forest lands.
Snowfall here is not only plentiful, it is also dry thanks to the moisture traveling across 100 miles of mountains from the Pacific Ocean to get to Methow. And after the snow arrives, a crystal blue sky almost always follows revealing the incredible scenic mountain panoramas. Located only 2,000 feet above sea level, this 40-mile-long xc skiing valley requires no altitude acclimation.
Many other North American regions could make the list of xc skiing Meccas, including Michigan's Grayling region, California’s Lake Tahoe, Colorado, Lake Placid in New York, and Canada's Quebec and British Columbia areas. Start your own list of “must visit” xc ski destinations, and use XCSkiResorts.com to explore the many choices and then make some reservations for your next winter adventure.
There have been studies done about exercise intervention for clinical populations diagnosed with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and even post traumatic stress disorder. This research shows that there are beneficial effects that produce a statistically relevant and significant reduction in these mental maladies. The following few paragraphs provide info from some articles that covered the topic of using exercise as a good strategy for therapists to employ.
In the 4th century, Plato reportedly quipped, “For man to succeed in life he has been provided with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” The CDC cites health benefits associated with a range of physical activity and in its absence there can be an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, etc. Physical inactivity may also be associated with the development of mental disorders such as those listed above.
There is evidence for the effectiveness of exercise training in patients with panic disorder impacted by a number of psychological factors such as increased self efficacy, a sense of mastery, distraction, and changes of self-concept. Can or will psychologists prescribe such an exercise intervention as part of therapy for their patients? It would seem to integrate perfectly with cognitive behavioral therapy strategies such as situational analysis, self monitoring, homework activities, and supportive follow-up to help compliance.
Physical fitness will also improve self-esteem and as patients feel better about themselves they’ll develop a more optimistic and energetic frame of mind. There is also an association between aerobic exercise and increased alertness. The exercise improves circulation and increases the availability of oxygen to the brain while it also causes the body to produce chemicals such as adrenaline to promote mental alertness. Fitness can instill a sense of pride and confidence and allow the mind a pathway to escape from everyday stress. Biologically speaking, exercise is said to cause the brain to release beta endorphins, which are essential in relieving pain and create a sort of euphoric or light happy feeling. This overall mood enhancement can be prescribed to help treat depression and anxiety. Regular exercise will also invoke focus, determination, and discipline, which are mentally strengthening.
Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are the top forms of aerobic recreational activities. And aerobic activities have been found to promote mental health, boost energy, improve sleep, relieve tension and stress, and combat anxiety and depression. There is a real proven link between physical fitness and mental health and well-being. We should get moving on this!
How do we encourage more psychologists to enroll their patients in outdoor fitness endeavors as part of therapy? There will be benefits from such strategies at a wide range of levels from getting someone out on rental snowshoes for 3 short weekly hikes to training for a 50 km skiathon.
A strategy to bring together xc skiing or snowshoeing and professional therapists can be developed. The skier can create a prescription for a routine for skiing or snowshoeing a number of kilometers a few times per week and the therapist can schedule sessions or maybe even hold the sessions on the trails. What would that be worth an hour including trail passes? Maybe xc ski areas can sell transferable season passes to therapists in a package? Maybe health insurance could cover the cost of and encourage such a winning strategy.
XC (cross country) skiers hate when snowshoers step on and mess up their groomed ski tracks and they both hate snowmobilers; while snowmobilers don’t want xc skiers and snowshoers using the trails that were paid for with snowmobile registration fees...and they all are freaked out about getting tangled up with sled dog teams! All winter trail users have the right to enjoy their chosen outdoor recreational experiences and their commonality is that they do not want their rights restricted in any way. In the winter, trail encounters between snowmobilers and other trail users must be expected. When these encounters inevitably occur, people should respect each other’s love of the outdoors and be considerate. That’s not a rule, an enforceable law, or a line in a list of codified responsibility dogma. It is the way to live.
While the vast majority of encounters between different winter trail users on the snow such as mushers (dog sledders), snowshoers, snowmobilers and xc (cross-country) skiers are friendly and respectful, there are some conflicts that occur and some resentment that does exist. Additionally, unsafe situations such as collisions, reckless behavior or poor judgment can occur. These situations can be compounded by damaged trail surfaces, narrow passageways, conflicted trail uses or trail congestion.
Other factors that may contribute to a problem on shared trails include trail user speed, mass of user or vehicle, sight distances, size of the group, users overtaking one another silently or without warning, user skill and experience and user expectations and preparedness. Add to that people’s different values and priorities and their tolerance for others’ lifestyle choices and it’s no wonder that you have a recipe for possible conflict.
In the Other Person’s Shoes
The most obvious way to prevent conflicts on the trails and promote safety for those who share the trails is to learn and understand each other’s perspectives. For example, many xc skiers and snowshoers are not aware that snowmobilers must pay a state registration fee, which is allocated to trail grooming. Snowmobilers have worked hard to secure landowners’ permission to develop and use their networks of trails. If xc skiers do not want to mix with other trail users they have the option of skiing at “skier-only” commercial ski centers that groom specifically for skiing, where snowmobilers are not allowed. And there are state and national park areas that restrict snowmobiling, too.
But snowmobilers may not realize deep-rooted resentments that many xc skiers have for the motorized trail users. Some skiers and snowshoers regard their solitude in nature as holy. They may feel that mechanized trail use is inappropriate and are angered by the inefficient two-cycle engine noise and exhaust. Snowshoers and xc skiers lifestyle perspectives may prevent them from ever being aware of the sheer joy a youngster experiences when (s) he rides a snowmobile for the first time. Certainly, there is enough room and plenty of miles of trails so that all trail users can be satisfied. And perhaps there are areas with separate trails that are primarily allocated to specific uses.
Snowmobilers and other trails users can facilitate mutual understanding through the process of communicating and collaborating. The Lyme-Pinnacle Snowmobile Club in the western central part of New Hampshire has discovered some success in sharing the trails. While it is unusual, the club membership is comprised of one-third xc skiers. They regularly share the trails and they pitch in and help maintain the trails in the off-season, too. And there is more than one report of a lost xc skier or snowshoer, who was glad to see a snowmobiler, who provided safe transport back to the trailhead. Perhaps it’s time trail users get into each other’s shoes and try each other’s activity. Work on joint projects such as trail maintenance, repairing a warming hut, deciding where routes are successful and where they are problematic.
What to Do at a Rendezvous?
The NH Fish & Game OHRV Operation and License Statute states: Any person operating an OHRV shall yield the right-of-way to any person on horseback, foot, ski, snowshoes or other mode of travel on foot; provided however, that such persons traveling do not unreasonably obstruct or delay OHRVs on the trail. The law also states that the maximum speed limit unless otherwise posted is 45 miles per hour.
There may be a code, trail etiquette, or laws of the land for snowmobilers and other trail users when they come upon each other, but what really matters is that people just use common sense. For example, obviously snowmobilers should be prepared for anything when approaching a blind curve, which suggests slowing down, being aware and keeping the sled under control.
Upon hearing the approach of a snowmobile, xc skiers or snowshoers should get off the trail in a place where they can be easily seen. They should give the snowmobiler room to pass, and be more wary if there are many people in either party. Skiers and snowshoers should also keep control of ski poles to avoid the sled as it goes by. Traditional yield rules and signage ask the machine operator to yield, but it is just much easier for the trail user on foot (or ski) to step off the trail.
XC skiers that use snowmobile trails often employ the skating method of skiing. This technique crosses the trail in a perpendicular fashion, substantially more than the traditional diagonal ski technique. The skater splays each sliding ski outward at an angle to glide longer and faster. This is usually a more encompassing exercise and snowmobilers should be aware that skating skiers might not be able to hear an oncoming machine very well. Their level of exercise and the sound of wind and sliding skis on crunchy snow can impair hearing somewhat. That is one good reason that snowmobilers, who may have newer quieter machines should not assume that other trail users will always hear them coming.
Mushers (dog sledders) recommend that as they approach head on, other trail users should get to the side or off the trail and let the sled dogs pass by. It’s best to try and communicate about each other’s intentions. Keep in mind that the sled dogs will try to keep to the inside of the trail on a curve to find the shortest path, so you should not automatically think that pulling off to the right is always the best option.
Interestingly, horseback riders suggest that other trail users talk it up when they come face-to-face. It is important that the horse understand that you are a person and not some robot contraption. Luckily, seeing equestrian enthusiasts on the winter trails is a rare occurrence.
People familiar with the trail sharing issue will often refer to the fact that there are very few problems on the trails. A common phrase is that problems occur with “less than one percent” of trail users. There is also concern about young people and others, who might act recklessly or are using snowmobiles for the first time. Skiers, who ski on the snowmobile trails but are not aware of the issues discussed in this article, are of particular concern, too. We must try to reach all of these “one-percenters” to prevent tragic consequences and keep the trails safe for all to use.
Backcountry access is now a service at more cross country ski resorts (see story at http://www.xcskiresorts.com/resort-features.php#Anchor-6262) and whether you refer to it as backcountry, out-of-bounds skiing, sidecountry, or off-piste skiing, such terrain accessed by skiers and snowshoers equipped with a sense of adventure, the latest powder gear, and exuberance to descend a mountain side in deep powder is intoxicating. But xc skiers can end up in dire circumstances, completely alone and on their own in trouble.
Some xc skiers have an insatiable appetite for untracked powder, which can override educated decisions when determining the acceptable risks. How to combat the possibility of catastrophe when accessing the backcountry within or outside the ski resort’s terrain, requires arming yourself with knowledge and the basis for sound decision making. The factors involved in off trail mishaps also often include human behavior and Mother Nature.
As more skiers and snowshoers access the off-trail terrain other issues such as increased use may impact safety. If a slope has been trafficked by dozens or hundreds of other backcountry users, it does not always mean that it is safe. Snowpack stability, route selection, and potential terrain hazards are all significant in the decision making for safety. While some ski area managers try to minimize the risk to off-trail users (such as “cleaning” gladed terrain areas), there are realities that include the skier’s individual choice and self reliance. Of course, there is a much better chance that help is nearby if a skier is in trouble within the ski area boundaries, but it still may take a while before help arrives.
It is important to for skiers and snowshoers to be educated and prepared and be able to assess the risks of backcountry activity even within the ski area boundaries. In these litigious times, there may not be ready-made pamphlets to promote safety in the backcountry because few writers and publishers want to be liable. But one example is, the Falcon Guide entitled “Cross-Country Skiing,” (see story at http://www.xcskiresorts.com/equipment.php#Anchor-1010), which has sections on Route Finding, Winter Hazards, and First Aid that provides useful info.
These are just some of the issues to be considered as more people ski or snowshoe off trails and more issues will arise as more ski areas open access to ungroomed terrain.
It has been said that cross country skiing and snowshoeing are some of the most romantic forms of recreation and Valentine’s Day is coming. So get away with your loved one to a winter wonderland of memories for some outdoor recreation and pampering that you deserve. The XCSkiResorts.com Top 10 features favorite romantic XC ski resorts across North America (in alphabetical order).
Fairmont Chateau in Lake Louise, AB – The Chateau is a grand old resort with all the trimmings and places for romantics to enjoy each other and an outstanding rear window panorama of the Victoria Glacier.
Franconia Inn is a charming country inn located in Franconia, NH with breathtaking views of the nearby mountains and intimate trails. The inn offers the "Romantic Interlude," which includes a bottle of champagne, 4-course gourmet dinner and a full country inn breakfast.
Galena Lodge, Ketchum, ID – The Honeymoon Yurt is a love nest that is only 20 minutes out on the trail. Couples can enjoy the backcountry accommodations in comfort themselves and get dinner delivered and maybe even a massage for two.
Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, MT – Near Yellowstone National Park, the ranch has cozy cabins, a lodge with great cuisine, massage services and a staff that treats all of its guests warmly.
Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior in Lutsen, MN has the "Romantic Getaway" including a bottle of champagne, candlelit dinner, whirlpool and fireplace in your room, and breakfast with optional massage for couples.
At Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI there's a Valentine's weekend of activities planned with a Full Moon Tour on Friday night by torchlight to Trapper's Cabin for a bonfire and hot cocoa and on Sunday enjoy live acoustic music in the Stone Turtle Day Lodge.
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY – A Victorian castle within an hour of NYC with free use of xc skis, snowshoes or ice skates for overnight guests. Climb the Sky Top Tower for a 360 degree vista. The spa has instruction for couples massage.
Mountain Top Inn, Chittenden, VT – This resort is buried in the Green Mountains, where you can sit fireside in the restaurant with a wonderful menu or in the pub with live entertainment. Sled on the hill behind the inn, take a horse-drawn sleighride or enjoy extensive trail network.
The Nipika Mountain Resort in Kootenay, BC has a secluded lodge and cabins. Couples are transported to the site, which is situated in 8,000 acres of wilderness with 36 feet of guaranteed snow. The resort is the ultimate eco-resort without high altitude problems.
Sun Mountain Lodge, Winthrop, WA – There is a 360 degree view of tranquility with guest rooms and lakeside cabins, extensive wine cellar and spa services.
Vista Verde Ranch, Steamboat Springs, CO – Guests are limited to 30 so the staff can insure personalized attention. Couples can share a guide into the backcountry and special cuisine at this secluded retreat in the Steamboat area. Photo: Happy couple from Fischer Skis
A recent visit to Bolton Valley Nordic Center in Vermont afforded me an up close look at the newest sensation in cross country skiing – backcountry access at a commercial xc ski area. Bolton boasts having 62 km of high elevation backcountry ski trails including steep winding trails through birch glades, mellow trails for touring, and plenty of powder turns on the way back down.
In mid-February while much of New England was wondering when winter would begin, Bolton Valley Nordic Center with its base elevation of 2,100 feet has fresh snow and a reliable, plentiful base. The facility has 26 km of groomed trails, too. The rental equipment includes backcountry gear for either xc skiing or snowshoeing. The famous Catamount Trail is amidst Bolton’s trail system and there seems to be no limit to interest in this market segment. In fact, the grand daddy of xc ski areas, Trapp Family Lodge now offers 2,500 acres and 40 km of trails in the backcountry, too.
At Bolton Valley Nordic Center's eastern side, the Bryant Ski Trail takes skiers uphill on an hour trek to the Bryant Camp Backcountry Cabin (2,690 foot elevation). Not much to the building but it is a destination that opens into various trails further up the terrain. By the time I arrived in the late morning the trails were packed by previous skiers. I had a few chats with other skiers, who donned gear ranging from lightweight xc skis to heavy telemark gear with climbing skins, wide waxless skis with BC boot/bindings, and I even dodged a snowboarder careening down the packed trail on a split decision snowboard.
I had a conversation with a couple of skiers, who admitted to taking the Wilderness Lift at the adjacent Bolton Valley alpine ski area to ski from the Peggy Dow’s Trail to the Nordic area’s backcountry terrain and the Heavenly Highway Trail where I met them. I skied further up the Highway and then turned on to an aptly named trail called Devil’s Drop, which was really a downhill powder run with switchbacks.
Clearly, you want to ski these trails on a day with good soft snow conditions. The trails are well marked and with skiers dropping down into untracked lines through the trees the upper trails can be a bit confusing. It appeared that after skiing around a few times it would be more comforting as one becomes familiar with the upper trails. There is an overlook named Stowe View and another trail where you can reach a destination named Olga’s Falls. The Bolton-Trapp Trail uses the Catamount Trail (Vermont’s lengthwise winter trail) between the Bolton Valley Nordic Center and Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe and this reaches the highest point on the Catamount Trail at 3,310 foot elevation.
The west side of the Bolton trails covers another entire area to ski and looking at the map contours it is appealing for some downhill fun. The backcountry area also has some delineated glade areas on the trail map and one would imagine that there could be much more of these cleaned areas to give skiers more to enjoy.
Trapp Family Lodge offers guided tours in the backcountry for $35 hour and there is a 3-day package with rental equipment, skill lessons, and a full day tour for $250. Bolton has backcountry rental gear for $30.
Uphill Transport for Skiing the Glades
About a decade ago, alpine ski resorts came to the realization that gladed areas (skiing in the trees rather than on the groomed slopes) between trails offers great fun to skiers. They have created safe glades on gentle terrain by eliminating underbrush, smaller trees, and rocks so there is more room for skiers to pick their way through the forest (somewhat) safely. Glade areas for advanced skiers offer steeper terrain and more obstacles.
Call me a heretic, but I feel that the time has come for xc ski area operators to accept that there are many skiers who would like to access these backcountry stashes without having to climb and get so tired. Clearly there is a portion of the skiing population who would pay for transport up to higher elevations to access these areas so they can enjoy the downhill runs. For a few extra dollars above the trail pass, such transport could be provided with an industrial snowmobile (which most resorts already use) pulling an attached trailer with seats. And maybe the snowmobile driver can stop at the top to take some photos of the skiers as they take off down the terrain. Skiers can purchase the photo documentation back at the lodge and get the photos emailed to their computer or phone so they can show their weekend adventure to coworkers on Monday morning at work.
I imagine that xc ski resort operators might feel that such a service is the domain of alpine ski resorts...but xc ski areas could offer a more natural service within the context of xc skiing and snowshoeing. People like high places and the product supplier companies have recently produced a proliferation of off-track and backcountry equipment. This type of xc ski resort service has arrived.
On a preseason visit to Lapland Lake XC Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY, I was given a true taste of Finland. This is cross country skiing Finnish style from the resort owner, Olavi Hirvonen to the authentic woodburning sauna and the two resident reindeer on site.
Olavi and Ann Hirvonen have operated Lapland Lake for more than 30 years and visitors’ testimonials speak to their friendly, caring, and personal customer service that is Lapland Lake. Actually, the resort is tucked away in the town of Benson situated 60 miles northwest of Albany in the 6-million acre Adirondack Forest Reserve.
In February 2010, Olavi celebrated the 50th anniversary as a member of the 1960 US Olympic Team in Squaw Valley. He participated in two events and in the 50-kilometer distance he finished second among the US skiers. His performance was marred by a broken ski, which compelled him to proceed 1.5 miles on a single ski before he was able to obtain a replacement. Olavi applies that compulsiveness to overseeing the trail grooming and after winter storms he has the Lapland staff clearing twigs and branches off of the trails. Olavi works in the rental and repair shop, certainly a labor of love for the octogenarian, while Ann focuses on most of everything else.
The kids line up to spin on a sled upon the frozen pond, where a Finish experience called Napa Kiikku has the kids on a sled that is attached to a pole protruding through the ice. The “Ski-like-a-Finn” lesson package helps first timers to get the hang of xc skiing with rental gear, a trail pass, and a lesson. And from the looks of it, the trails are mostly on comfortable level terrain so that skiers need not climb too much or worry about out-of-control downhill experiences. There are a total of about 50 kilometers of trails with nearly 40 km that are groomed, 2.5 km lighted for night skiing and some panoramic views of nearby Woods Lake.
I sampled a small comfortable cottage called a “tupa” for overnight lodging and walked through the Lapin Tupa, which is a bigger dwelling that can be rented as private rooms by couples/individuals or shared by a larger group. The tupa where I stayed had electric heat, two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a small family room, and a woodstove. And when the snow is abundant, skiing from the front door and around the property will have you shouting tervetuloa (greetings) to others.
The Finnish Line Lodge is Lapland Lake’s main facility in a two-story building that literally rose from the ashes as it burned to the ground years ago, was rebuilt and now houses the retail store, rentals, fireside lounge area, and upstairs at the Kuuma Tupa snack bar for soup, chili, or a beverage. The Tuulen Tupa Grill is a dining room that has lunch and a catered dinner menu and it is slated for redecoration by the Hirvonen’s daughter, who is studying interior design and will undertake the project during her college break.
Lapland Lake welcomes people to cross country ski and snowshoe from kids and seniors, to ladies and teachers in weekly group programs that are scheduled. It has received the 2011 Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor among other recognition awards in the past. Ann Hirvonen stopped during our tour of the area and revealed that this was the spot she liked to stand at night to look at the twinkling lights of the tupas in the winter - knowing that people are enjoying it makes running Lapland Lake all worth it to her. You’ll say tavataan ladulla or “see you on the trails.”
Ski for Light, Inc. is an organization founded in 1975 to teach blind, visually- and mobility-impaired adults how to xc ski, in an atmosphere that encourages participants to recognize that they can usually accomplish much more, both on the snow and back home in everyday life.
Each year Ski for Light, Inc. conducts a week-long event where blind and mobility-impaired adults are taught the basics of cross country skiing. The SFL week in 2015 skiing will be held at Snow Mountain Ranch in CO on Jan 25 - Feb 1, 2015. The location of the event changes from year to year in an effort to spread the Ski for Light philosophy and idea to as many parts of the country as possible.
During the Ski for Light week each disabled skier is paired for the entire week with an experienced, sighted, cross-country skier who acts as ski instructor and guide. The disabled person skis in tracks or grooves in the snow, while the guide skis along side. The guide offers instructional tips and suggestions, support and encouragement, and describes the countryside.
The blind and mobility-impaired adults, who attend the Ski for Light week, come from all over the U.S. and from several foreign countries. Many of them come to Ski for Light with a desire to become more physically active and fit, and to find recreational opportunities that are lacking at home. Most of the SFL skiers discover, in the process of learning how to xc ski, that they can accomplish much more than others have told them, and much more than they themselves believed. They leave Ski for Light with a sense of accomplishment and motivation that carries over to every aspect of their lives back home.
The volunteer guides, who attend Ski for Light, are a very special group of people. They pay the same event fees as disabled skiers so that they can share a favorite activity with someone who would otherwise not have the opportunity to participate. Most of these guides discover that in the process of giving of themselves they are getting as much or more back in return. Many of them return to each event, year after year.
The organization is always seeking new guides and participants (visually impaired or mobility impaired) and word-of-mouth is how most first-time attendees are attracted to the program. Please help spread the word to anyone, who might be interested. Information about the event and application forms for the next event and at regional events around the country are available at www.sfl.org. Those interested in attending or volunteering for SFL may also call (612) 827-3232 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Squaw Valley Winter Olympics held in 1960 led the way to many technological advances that shaped today’s operation and broadcasting of the Winter Olympics. The Nordic event venues built in Tahoma, CA are now covered with dense new growth as all of the structures, which were temporary, have been removed. The land located on Route 89 about 10 miles south of Tahoe City on the west side of Lake Tahoe is now the Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park.
The Nordic venues and practice areas for the men’s 50 km, 30 km, combined, and relay races were held in the General Creek and McKinney Creek areas, which were privately owned when the Squaw Valley Olympics was in the planning stages. These games were also the first time that the biathlon and women’s 10 km were included at the Olympics. The 57 km of trails were developed in 1958 and completed in 1959 for a test run championship.
The 1960 Winter Olympics were the first time the winter competitions were ever nationally broadcast on TV. This was also the first time that sno-cat grooming vehicles were used to mechanically groom the race courses. Tucker Sno-cat machines towed agricultural choppers and tines to “tenderize” the snow conditions. They had yet to think of track setters in today’s terms, so skiers set the tracks by skiing behind the grooming machines. The downhill sections were raked by hand.
Another first was the use of electrical and manual timing. To keep spectators abreast of the competition, interval times of the racers were taken along the trail and were phoned to the stadium area where they were announced to the spectators and posted on the scoreboard.
Since there are few remnants from the Nordic events remaining, there is now an effort to reinvigorate these “forgotten Olympics” in a partnership with the state park to reestablish the trail network, construct interpretive panels and trail markers, and develop a museum of historical artifacts. Currently there is an Olympic exhibit at the Reno Airport and there is some signage at Sugar Park Point State Park. For more information there is a book by David Antonucci entitled “Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games,” which is filled with information and photos.
Is there a difference between cross country skiing at a commercial center and “in the woods?” Are people aware about the difference between designed trails at a commercial xc ski area compared to cross country skiing in a field, in a local park, or on a trail in the forest?
One of the greatest obstacles for xc skiing growth is the common notion of a lone xc skier going into a narrow dark trail as if the very isolation in the woods was the goal. Interestingly, some ski areas have marketed that isolationism, but there are a few things that focus on the average recreation enthusiasts’ experience that are offered on designed trails at a commercial xc ski resort.
Often trails that are built by loggers and the government parks’ people have long straight ascents and descents and they are boring. Most average skiers are very afraid of the speed of a long downhill. Instead, trail designers such as John Morton of Morton Trails recommend undulating and twisting trails that spark interest on every turn and also help slow down the speed. Destinations, scenic vistas, and accomplishment upon arrival make great sense on xc ski trails and these are characteristics of what well-designed trails should provide.
Most commercial xc ski resorts charge a fee between $15 and $29. For that fee the patron (hopefully) get a business operation and trails that:
Yes, admittedly many people can xc ski out their back door in the backyard, on a local golf course, or on a trail in a nearby forest and it is very convenient to do so. But commercial xc ski resorts offer a different skiing product. New Hampshire’s Jackson Ski Touring Center, emulated by hundreds of xc ski resorts across North America could be thought of as quintessential because it provides a perfect example of most of those services and amenities. The investment required to supply the list of services above is no small number (snowcat grooming machines and such), but Jackson has something more and it is called the “culture of xc skiing.” This is why Jackson can be considered one of the true meccas of xc skiing.
Of course, the major issue with noncommercial cross country ski trails is about snow conditions. The whim of the weather rules the snow and without trail grooming and trail maintenance, the snow can be to hard packed, icy, sticky, too deep for nonpowder skiers, or too inconsistent to offer a good experience.
The statistics have shown over many years that less than 20 percent of xc ski outings are at commercial resorts. Skiers that experience the other 80 percent of the xc skiing outings are missing out on the list of services above and many of them are not even aware that those services exist. It needs to be spelled out for them and an effort needs to be made to differentiate commercial ski area experience from backyard skiing.
Since the time that wooden skis were found in a peat bog in Sweden dating to 2,000 BC, there have been many milestones that brought xc skiing to where it is today. Focusing on the USA, the forefathers of our recreation include people such as Snowshoe Thompson, who delivered the mail in the Sierra Mountains of California and JackRabbit Johannsen, who xc skied in northern New York.
The editors of XCSkiResorts.com using various sources considered the milestones and developed this list of the Milestones of Modern XC Skiing in the USA in order of significance:
Plan to gather up the kids and head to the hills during the school breaks next winter. No need to head to warmer climes - winter can be snowy, yet mild, and perfect for a family vacation with plenty of activities such as cross-country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing. According to the experts, who regularly update XCSkiResorts.com, the nation's top XC ski resorts are exceedingly family-friendly with lots to enjoy together both on the snow and off. What families want and need is exactly what an xc ski vacation delivers: multi-generational participation, quality time and shared memories.
There are special touches such as talent shows, child-friendly classes and family style meals to help your XC ski and snowshoe vacation become the perfect memorable getaway with your loved ones. Families can find resorts that offer the perfect combination of carefree atmosphere and picture-perfect views together with beautiful lodging, family dining, and expertly groomed trails and learn how they can enjoy the winter outdoors together. The following are top suggestions from the site:
Lapland Lake Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY has nightly bonfires on the weekends and the kids love to play Napa Kikku, which is a Finnish game on ice with a sled and a pole. Kicksleds, tubing, ice skating and parents use pulk sleds to pull the kids along the xc ski trails.
Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, ME has family programs to engage kids and adults with outdoors and educational activities such as XC skiing, mountain biking, equestrian, exploring life and animals on the farm, apple cider making, butter making, milking a cow, carving pumpkins, and much more.
Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT is one of the most famous family resorts where the hills come alive with the "Sound of Music." In the Green Mountains of Vermont, Trapp Family Lodge is a paradise for families with a fitness center, an indoor pool and the Mountain Kids Club provides playtime, craft time and movies for kids.
Smuggler's Notch Resort in Smuggler's Notch, VT has a dynamic lineup of family programs with 1,000 acres for alpine skiers and snowboarders, teen centers, kids camps and FunZone play area, resort village with shops and restaurants, condo lodging, and walk-to free shuttles. There's xc ski and snowshoe trails, winter walking, ice skating, and more. Recognition for family focus has been awarded by numerous magazines.
Maplelag Resort in Callaway, Minnesota is run by a 3-generation extended family and this resort has families coming back year after year. They serve family style meals and host a talent/variety show, which is a big hit for families. The state’s largest hot tub, famous bottomless cookie jars, sledding, ice skating, and XC ski/snowshoe trails combine to make this one of the most popular family destinations.
As the name implies, Palmquist Farm in Brantwood, WI is an XC ski center on a farm that offers kid-friendly animals such as horses and a dog. There are sleds to use on sliding hills and ice skating pond, plus horse-drawn sleigh rides and kids rental ski equipment. They say that a visit to Palmquist's is like coming home to Grandma's house.
Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO has outdoor adventures from XC skiing and snowshoeing to Zipline, horseback riding and laser biathlon. There are "cowpoke camps" for overnight guests with kids in half and full day programs, heated pool, movie nights, game room, and more.
Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO is a destination for the whole family with the most affordable options for lodging which includes a Day Pass covering a weekend kids program with outdoor fun and indoor activities such as a pool, climbing wall, roller skating, craft shop, and more.
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT has programs for outdoor youth adventures that include animal tracking, snowshoeing, tubing, snow kickball, obstacle Olympics, finger painting, scavenger hunts and ice cream socials. Parents will love the cuisine, massage and xc skiing on picturesque trails.
You'll be amazed by the giant trees in Sequoia National Park and Monument near the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge in Kings Canyon National Park, CA. There is a daylong program for children, which has a break for the family to join together during lunch. The kids build igloos, go tubing and XC skiing or snowshoeing on nature hikes to see and learn about animal tracks. At night there is a dance, karaoke and bingo.
For people interested in traveling to xc ski resorts this winter, here is info about making a destination selection from the editor of XCSkiResorts.com.
In general, xc skiers select their winter xc ski destination resorts using some rating system of how xc ski areas perform in eight categories of criteria including trail quality and grooming, scenery, food quality, staff friendliness and service, the ski lodge facility and family issues. There is a great range of xc ski areas in North America and in the eyes of xc skiers these characteristics delineate areas without concern to whether the area is an inn, a ranch, a day area, a destination resort, or a recreation park area. I've purposively avoided the issue of cost - whether you like to travel to distant resorts or only travel within your region, you will still compare the other criteria to select your destination resort.
The information below describes what a quality xc ski resort is all about in terms of services and amenities at some of the leading xc ski resorts in North America.
XC SKI TRAILS
Trail Quality relates to the skiers' comfort on the trails, even though those skiers might be at different skiing or experience levels. The trail signage should help skiers understand where they are on the area's trail network. And signs should help skiers know the direction that will help them return to their starting place. The trails should provide a skiing flow so there aren't too many long uphills or sharp turns at the bottom of steep downhills. One idea that is done at Lapland Lake in Northville, New York that makes trails seem less crowded is to have skiers go in the same direction (one-way). The result is that the trails never seem crowded. Jim Richards of Maplelag in Calloway, Minnesota said, "Feedback from the majority of our skiers let us know that they preferred double-tracked trails over single tracks. And we had overwhelmingly negative opinions about allowing dogs on the trails, too."
Some of the best xc ski areas are just blessed with great terrain for xc skiing. The location of Royal Gorge in Soda Springs, California is perfect for xc skiing as the area's land diversity offers flat, rolling and more challenging variety. And Royal Gorge's "Sierra maritime snow consolidates well and is great for the base on the trails, which means that skiers can count on excellent conditions when they ski there."
Trail grooming can make or break the ski conditions. Olavi Hirvonen of Lapland Lake states, "We groom every morning unless we have to wait for the snow to dry out or cool off - and I groom the way I like to ski the trails myself." Hirvonen gets the Lapland Lake staff out on the trails after windy periods to rake and pick up the debris from trees like fallen limbs and pinecones because "I don't want the skiers to have to ski over the debris as it appears on the trails from the Springtime melt."
One thing that most of the best xc ski areas share in common is that they acquire and use the latest trail grooming technology to give them a mechanical advantage. They do not skimp when it comes to using snowcats with their grooming attachments to break up ice or powderize the snow into the finest trail surfaces.
Without getting into the details of grooming machinery and techniques, the personal pride of the area operators is paramount to the trail quality issue. Brian Wadsworth of Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana was a world class cross country ski racer, who groomed trails for eight years at the Ranch. He was selected by the Soldiers Hollow Olympic venue to groom the 2002 Olympic Cross Country Ski competition trails. He knows grooming from a technical and a skier's perspective. He knows the "best line tracks." But when he comments, "My goal is to be able to hold a World Cup race here any day of the winter" it sums up his pride and commitment to the quality of the trails at Lone Mountain Ranch.
STAFF SERVICE AND FRIENDLINESS
You know it when an area's staff is a great one - they seem happy to see you. In most instances, areas that have veteran employees have them because it is a great place to work. Most of these great employees do not need "customer service" training. They already have the personal touch. At Lone Mountain Ranch the staff has become "the hallmark in the industry," according to Wadsworth because they are "encouraged to create life-long relationships with the guests." Most of the people that work at the best xc ski areas want to work there as a lifestyle choice. This is apparent with their attitudes with the guests and about working at one of the best xc ski areas.
The Richards family, who own and run the Maplelag Resort in Callaway, Minnesota, treat their guests as part of their family. It may sound trite but their guests sincerely feel welcome and they state it unequivocally in testimonials. The staff often greets the guests by name. They Richards constantly ask their guests if there is anything that can be done and they drop everything to help their guests, be it in the lodge, on the trails, in the rental shop or at the dinner table. Richards feels, "One of us (the Richards family) is always around to help with our guests. It's fun to be talked to and pampered by the actual owners of the resort." Many testimonials from different areas claim the same thing with regard to their feelings about the service at the best resorts - they feel welcome, comfortable and "at home." And Maplelag avoids posting rules or signs saying "Don't do this or that."
XC ski lodges can be designed to provide space, convenience and efficient utilization, but there are also other factors that make a difference to skiers. Ann Hirvonen of Lapland Lake states, "Clean is huge to us. We are cozy and convenient, but facilities such as restrooms can get pretty yucky, so we keep them in good condition throughout the day." Lapland also takes into account brown baggers (bring their own lunch rather than purchase food at the area) by offering them a picnic area. And they have a public shower and changing area for skiers, who want to clean up before their drive home.
At Lone Mountain Ranch, part of their ambiance is the historic facilities. Of course they have also added new updated facilities such as a dining room and some cabins, but many guests go there to enjoy the rustic and original facilities. "It looks like what people expect Montana to look like and we continue to renovate with cozy features such as antique furniture and old fashioned quilts to retain our historical aspects," said Wadsworth.
The main lodge at Maplelag is the area's group meeting place, and it is a living folk art museum. Jim Richards has collected unusual items from around the world. He stated, "We work very hard cultivating this look to be a feast for the eyes." There are nooks and crannies where people can sit and relax, read a book, play games with the family, etc. The lodge also houses the main dining room, hot tub, sauna, massage rooms, rental shop, gift store and it is where the Saturday night talent show and dance takes place.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
Whether Nordic skiers bring a picnic lunch, stop at a trailside snack shack or relax with a first class dining experience, the best areas usually are known for their outstanding cuisine. Good food service is a result of the area's commitment, quality chefs with pedigree culinary backgrounds, wine selection, and so on. The Maplelag kitchen is run by Debbie, the chef who has been on the job on and off for 25 years. There is a window opening to the kitchen where guests can speak with Debbie and see the staff cooking the meals. They make everything from scratch using only natural and fresh ingredients. They call it homestyle, hearty, and wholesome and it is a unique menu that is endorsed by the guests. Richards' summarized, "Food is a real joy at Maplelag.
QUALITY FAMILY TIME
Some xc ski areas are highly touted for their commitment to families. They cater to family needs by "dealing with the kids." Ann Hirvonen of Lapland Lake says, "We are a family and we raised our daughter here and when you raise a family at a ski center, you focus on families. So our trails have plenty of flat terrain for kids and we offer pulks (sleds that skiers use to carry small children), children's sized snowshoes, skis, boots, and ice skates." XC skiing offers families an activity that they can all do together. And that can include a four-year old on Snoopy skis skiing right alongside of grandpa skiing on his pine tarred woody originals.
Child-oriented instructors are a key element for families. For the kids to have a positive attitude about Nordic skiing they must have positive first experiences. It is suggested that the most successful lessons do not intermingle children with their parents in the same classes. Kids get comfortable with child-friendly instructors as individuals and on subsequent visits the kids commonly request to take additional lessons so they can spend more time with those friendly instructors.
Another important way to cater to families is to offer a variety of other skiing and non-skiing activities. At Lapland Lake a game played in Finland called Napa Kiikku is organized on weekends and holidays. The game involves a pole on ice with a sled that goes around in a circle. Adult lessons are conducted to correlate to the time that the kids play the game.
Kids love a campfire by the lake, sleigh rides, or just playing on a big pile of snow. Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont conducts many kids "classes" from swimming to puppet classes or making stuffed animals. The kids' classes provide parents with some child-free time for going on harder ski trails or getting a massage while the kids are being entertained.
Jay Richards (Jim and Mary Richards' son) of Maplelag commented, "Seeing our large family with our own kids running around, being involved makes families feel welcome here. We try to make parents feel at ease about having their kids run around." Maplelag cabins and cabooses are great accommodations that can fit large families and the Richards try to help families focus on being together doing family activities. Serving meals "family style" is a key element to the atmosphere. But so are the other family activities such as the dance and the talent show. Baby sitting services are available on site, too. Jay feels that one of the biggest reasons families visit is that there are many families already at Maplelag every time people visit and that makes families feel welcome.
Of course, there are other criteria for selecting winter destinations - for example, couples that are looking for a romantic weekend will have different needs (and desires). There is something more memorable about traveling to a destination compared to going to the local trail network for a couple of hours to xc ski or snowshoe. Whatever your interests, there is a perfect xc ski resort for you.